Nursing home residents are often in close quarters, and despite how healthy they are when they enter, they are at a higher risk of developing infections when they are in the facility. Pneumonia is one of the most common, and is one of the highest causes of disease and mortality in nursing homes across the country.
Pneumonia is an infection within the lungs that is caused by either bacteria or a virus, and results in a number of different health problems. The infection is inhaled through the lungs, and research suggests people are even more vulnerable to pneumonia after recently having had the flu.
Symptoms of pneumonia include a cough, fever, fast breathing, chills, chest pain that worsens with breathing or coughing, weakness, and nausea.
The elderly are especially susceptible to pneumonia because their immune system is already weakened. The infection might manifest itself in different ways in the elderly, however, including cognitive problems like memory loss and confusion, which may make it harder to discern.
The CDC recommends that all adults over the age of 65 receive the pneumococcal vaccine. They also suggest the influenza shot for all seniors, because the flu can often morph into pneumonia if not treated in a timely manner.
A patient in Texas is currently recovering from Legionnaire’s disease, which is a dangerous viral form of pneumonia. He was diagnosed last Tuesday at Waco VA Medical Center. Pneumonia cannot be spread by human contact, but only through the inhalation of air that contains the virus or bacteria. The staff at the facility is testing other residents who exhibit any symptoms of pneumonia, but so far no one else has been diagnosed.
Testing for pneumonia often involves questioning regarding symptoms, a physical exam, and possibly a blood test or chest x-ray. Because pneumonia is passed through aspiration, oral care is extremely important in avoiding pneumonia in nursing home residents.
In addition to monitoring oral health, general health will help reduce your susceptibility to pneumonia. More than 300,000 people are affected by pneumonia every year and between 40,000 and 70,000 of those cases are fatal. Proper nutrition, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep help keep your immune system strong.
If you put effort into maintaining your health as you age, you can seriously reduce your risk of an infection like pneumonia and increase the chances of living retirement healthily and happily.