Infections Among The Elderly
Many people don’t realize that the leading cause of death in adults over 65 is infections. (Infections are responsible for about one third of all deaths in seniors over 65.) Many are common infections, but in older adults they are often tougher to diagnose. This can lead to heightened risks and hospitalization. Seniors are more susceptible to infection in general – and those with dementia may be at an even greater risk. Some of the early symptoms are not always obvious. Symptoms like a loss of appetite, incontinence and a change in mental status – these can all be side effects of an infection at work. The following are the most common types of infections in seniors along with some preventative tips:
UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections). Using a catheter, or the presence of diabetes can increase the risk of UTIs. Warning signs include a change in behavior (such as confusion). Caregivers should make sure that seniors drink plenty of water, which is an easy but preventative measure.
Skin Infections. Changes to aging skin can bring on viral infections such as shingles, fungal infections and herpes. Caregivers can promote proper hand washing (good hygiene) to keep skin infections away.
Bacterial Pneumonia. Seniors are at a higher risk for pneumonia and some of the classic symptoms (like fever and chills) are often not present. Be on the lookout for weakness and confusion. Some strains of pneumonia can be effectively prevented using a pneumococcal vaccine (under a doctor’s recommendation of course).
Influenza. Weak overall immunity in the elderly often increases complications from the flu. Most doctors recommend an annual flu vaccine as a preventative measure. Once infected, a physician may prescribe antiviral meds to minimize symptoms.
Be alert to any changes in your loved ones’ health and check in with your senior often to make sure he or she is feeling good. Regular check-ups are always appropriate and if you think something doesn’t seem quite right, take action!