When it comes to senior health, adult children providing home care for an elderly parent often already know the warning signs of conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke. Less discussed are common infections that routinely afflict senior citizens. Among seniors, common infections may be more severe or require specialized treatment. Below are four of the most common infections among seniors, including tips for self-care and treatment.
1. Bacterial Pneumonia
Bacterial pneumonia is particularly prevalent among seniors because of its tendency to follow other health issues like lung disease and diabetes. While you may look for respiratory symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, pneumonia in the elderly may also cause less obvious symptoms such as confusion or muscle weakness. The good news is that bacterial pneumonia is often treatable with antibiotics.
2. Urinary Tract Infections
As with pneumonia, UTIs are bacterial infections that are more likely to afflict seniors already experiencing chronic conditions like diabetes. Among younger patients, the classic symptom of a UTI is painful urination. Among seniors, however, UTI symptoms may range from incontinence to confusion. Left untreated, UTIs can become serious infections, even spreading to the kidneys. As a preventative measure, copious amounts of water and unsweetened cranberry juice can safeguard urinary tract health. If you suspect a UTI, however, have your loved one’s doctor perform a urinalysis. If a UTI is present, the doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics.
For the elderly, the flu may be more severe and particularly difficult to shake—and it can often lead to secondary infections like pneumonia. It is important for seniors to stay current on influenza vaccinations each year, but it is possible to contract various strains of flu even after vaccination. As preventative measures, seniors and their part-time or live-in at-home caregivers should observe frequent hand-washing practices. For those infected, doctors may prescribe antiviral medications. As a virus, influenza will not respond to antibiotics.
4. Sexually Transmitted Infections
Perhaps surprisingly, STIs are on the rise among elderly patients. In recent years, retirement communities have even contended with outbreaks of chlamydia and syphilis. For sexually active seniors, it is important to practice safer sex and maintain regular STI screenings. As a caregiver, you should not assume a senior’s celibacy or level of sexual health literacy—having an uncomfortable conversation about safe sex practices could help prevent an STI.
While seniors face increased susceptibility to a number of common infections, most infections are treatable with early diagnosis and treatment. However, the best line of defense against these infections is through preventative health care and regular screenings. Best practices for avoiding these infections include managing underlying conditions, watching for changes in behavior, and informing a physician promptly about any suspicious symptoms.
To learn more about senior health and wellness, reach out to Home Care Assistance of Vancouver at (778) 279-3634. As a leading provider of hourly and live-in care, as well as specialized stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia senior care in Vancouver, promoting a high quality of life for elderly is our top priority. Call us today. We look forward to hearing from you!