Pneumonia hospitalizations are the second largest for Medicare recipients according to the research. Why are the elderly commonly affected with pneumonia? There are multiple reasons why the elderly keep getting pneumonia. One reason is that they are often undernourished.
As we grow older, sometimes our taste buds change where food just doesn’t taste as good as it used to. Older people are more inclined to experience stomach upset and constipation which makes them not want to eat. The mechanisms that let the brain know we are thirsty, don’t work so well and as a result, the elderly are prone to dehydration. All of these factors affect the immune system which makes it harder to fight off infections.
Another factor to consider is that the elderly usually do not have any symptoms and are less likely to notice they have pneumonia until it is advanced. They are unable to produce a strong enough cough to cough up the phlegm, due to decreased lung capacity and this results in a buildup of mucus in the lungs. They don’t usually experience fever, chills, or chest pain and shortness of breath that result from deep breathing. Typically, the elder is not breathing deeply due to other health problems and are therefore less likely to notice any symptoms that they may have since they are used to not generally feeling well.
When you take everything discussed into consideration, the elderly is less likely to notice they have pneumonia until it is too late. Coupled with a weakened immune system, pneumonia can be very dangerous for the elderly. Once diagnosed, it can be difficult to treat due to the changes in the liver and kidneys (two organs required to metabolize and excrete medications) which are usually compromised in the elderly making dosing difficult.
So why does dad keep getting pneumonia? In addition to what has been mentioned, many elders are undernourished and proper nutrition is needed for an optimal immune system. Stagnant air as found in nursing homes due to limited access to fresh air is a breeding ground for bacteria and germs where pneumonia can thrive.