Pneumonia and other elderly lung problems

Lungs have two primary functions: bringing oxygen into the body to provide energy (breathing in) and removing carbon dioxide — the waste produced by the body and expelled by breathing out. As a person ages, the lungs, like other parts of the body, become more frail and in turn are more susceptible to potentially deadly conditions like pneumonia. That’s why being aware of signs and symptoms of common lung conditions is important for elderly persons as well as their caregivers. You never know — catching conditions early could save someone’s life.

Pneumonia

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that more people die from pneumonia each year from than from car accidents. Many people over 65 are especially vulnerable because they tend to have weakened immune systems and sometimes have problems clearing secretions from their lungs, making them prone to infection.

Signs (via the Mayo Clinic)

  • Cough (often producing green mucus)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling weak and/or tired
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Treatment

Treatment

A doctor can diagnose pneumonia with a blood test and chest X-rays. Depending on whether the pneumonia is bacterial or viral, antibiotics or anti-viral medicine will be prescribed.

Lung cancer

Smoking causes the majority of lung cancer cases, followed by secondhand smoke. It is also the deadliest cancer among men and women in the U.S. Naturally the easiest way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke and stay away from smoky environments.

Signs (via the Mayo Clinic)

  • Persistent cough
  • Developing chronic cough or “smoker’s cough”
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

Treatment

Surgery, radiation, RF ablation, chemotherapy or a combination of multiple treatments can help battle lung cancer. Surgery is also common. The average person diagnosed with lung cancer is lucky to live more than five years, so early detection is vital.

COPD

Millions of elderly people suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is characterized by persistent, limited airflow, apt to inflammatory reactions to noxious particles and gases present in the airways and lungs. Sadly, COPD is a progressive disease with no cure, one that can only be slowed down by treatments and changes in lifestyle.

Signs (via the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute)

  • Constant coughing/smoker’s cough
  • Excess sputum (mucus from coughing) production
  • Feeling unable to breathe
  • Unable to take a deep breath
  • Wheezing

Treatment

Lifestyle changes go hand-in-hand with treating COPD, including the following:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Keeping home as dust free as possible
  • Avoiding the use of products with strong chemical odors
  • Avoiding the use of fragrant sprays and lotions
  • Using a humidifier (especially if living in a dry climate)
  • Keeping necessities nearby, especially those with less mobility due to COPD

Encompass Senior Solutions currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of the available care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. All Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today for help with your senior care needs.

Photo credit: Aidan Jones via photopin cc

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