Are you aware of the fact that almost a third of all senior deaths are caused by infectious disease? If you didn’t know that, you might be shocked to know that this is true.  You might be asking yourself how, or why this is the case.  The simple answer is that the standard warning signs of infection are different in a senior’s body.  To go even further, new strains of bacteria are continuously developing a stronger resistance to antibiotics, which does not help the already aging immune systems of elderly patients.  At Sunflower Home Health we realize that many of our patients are elderly patients.  To educate them and their family members, we are going to discuss the most common infections found in elderly patients, how to avoid those infections, and how to treat them if you or your family member does get them.

Urinary Tract Infection

The most common form of infection found in elderly patients is the Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).  Commonly referred to as a bladder or urethra contamination, these bacteria can spread to the kidneys and become a much more dangerous problem.  If a senior suffers from diabetes or uses a catheter, they may be at a higher risk for a UTI.  However, those with an enlarged prostate, or patients that are not emptying their bladder properly are also at risk. Symptoms include pain, discomfort, fever, and persistent desire to urinate.  It is important to know that these symptoms are not always immediately evident in elderly patients.  Treatments can differ depending on the infection itself, meaning a proper diagnosis is essential while ensuring the patient stays hydrated.

Skin Infections

We are using the term skin infection as an umbrella term for several ailments such as shingles, pressure ulcers, fungal foot infections or staphylococcus aureus.  Skin infections are problematic for seniors as they are less able to fight them off since their skin does not heal as quickly as it used to.  Diabetes also plays a negative role in senior skin infections.  These skin conditions can come from many sources, including lack of mobility, moisture, human contact (including communal showers), and a weakened immune system.  Symptoms include pain, itching, unfamiliar marks, or rashes.  In some cases, skin infections can cause mild fevers.   Good hygiene is a must to avoid these infections, especially in a communal environment.  Good hand washing techniques and regular bathing schedules are encouraged.   Staying current on vaccines and the proper disposal of all bodily secretions are also important.  If someone is already infected, isolate them from any other human contact and treat their contamination with antiviral agents.

Influenza and Pneumonia

An unattended respiratory infection (influenza) has the potential to develop into a severe lung infection (pneumonia) where the air saves fill up with fluid and harden.  This is the fifth leading cause of death in the elderly due to diminished lung capacity, exhausted immune systems, or pre-existing conditions.  These germs are usually spread from person to person, transmitted through coughing or sneezing, and then inhaled into the lungs.  Signs and symptoms include chills, coughs, and sore throats.  However, in many cases, these symptoms are often less clear in seniors.  Sudden headaches and weakened demeanor are early read flags, while changes in behavior should also be watched carefully.  These changes in behavior include confusion and delirium. Routine checkups, pneumococcal vaccines, and a strict no smoking policy are some of the best methods of prevention, while antibiotics should be used to treat an existing condition.  Also, early diagnosis increases the chances of a swift recovery.

Gastrointestinal Infections

There are various types of bacterial infections which affect the stomach and/or the small intestine, but Helicobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile are the most common.  These outbreaks can be passed on from individual to individual or introduced to the system via means of undercooked food or contaminated water.  The risk of infection is increased when traveling to foreign regions which contain viruses that their body is not accustomed to. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  This rapid loss of liquids calls for continuous hydration for the patient while making a quick diagnosis.  If other people, who also consumed the same meals, feel unwell then it is safe to assume that this is a food-related outbreak.  Gastrointestinal infections normally clear up on their own within a few days.  However, you should always speak to a medical professional to be safe.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any signs of infection, or you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form and reach out or give us a call at your local office.  Those numbers are listed below:

  • Charleston – (662) 647-0653
  • Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
  • Cleveland – (662)756-4676
  • Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
  • Grenada – (662) 294-0726
  • Indianola – (662) 887-1518

At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.

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