Around 22,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with pneumonia each year. Sometimes, these diagnoses can be fatal. In 2019, most pneumonia-related deaths occurred amongst the elderly, with rates climbing drastically amongst those over the age of 70. This, of course, is something we all want to avoid. So how can you recognise symptoms of pneumonia in elderly people? And how can you support them?
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a respiratory condition often caused by a bacterial infection. It causes inflammation in one or both lungs, obstructing breathing. Viruses can also cause pneumonia. When the air sacs of the lungs become inflamed, they fill with fluid.
The most common form of pneumonia, which is contracted through exposure to a bacteria or virus outside of hospital, is known as “community-acquired pneumonia”. It is also possible to contract pneumonia in hospital, and this is known as “hospital-acquired pneumonia”. Patients on breathing machines are at the most risk.
Another form of pneumonia, known as “aspiration pneumonia”, is caused when food, vomit, or harmful substances are accidentally inhaled. This form is most common amongst the elderly, or amongst individuals with swallowing difficulties.
Symptoms of Pneumonia in Elderly People
Pneumonia is a condition that can develop very quickly. Symptoms can show over a 24-hour period, though they can sometimes take days to show.
The most obvious symptoms include difficulty breathing, high temperatures, chest pains, and a continuous cough. Sometimes, coughing may produce thick, unpleasantly coloured phlegm.
Rarer symptoms include extreme fatigue, headache, and muscular pain. Symptoms of pneumonia in elderly people may also present as confusion and disorientation.
When symptoms of pneumonia in elderly loved ones are present, it is important to get a diagnosis from a GP. Once you have received a diagnosis, treatment will be prescribed. Mild pneumonia can be treated with rest and antibiotics. More severe cases, however, are likely to require hospitalisation.
As with all things, prevention is better than treatment. General activities such as washing your hands are great for avoiding infection. It is also recommended that people live healthy lives, avoiding smoking and only drinking alcohol in moderation, as these can both weaken the lungs.
Those at high risk of pneumonia should receive the pneumococcal and flu vaccines.
Personal Alarms from Careline365
Sometimes our loved ones need extra peace of mind at home. They may be worried about developing pneumonia symptoms, or just have concerns about falls in the home. When this is the case, it may be worth investing in a personal alarm from Careline365.