Caring for an Elderly Loved One Recovering from Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a dangerous illness that can have serious health consequences. This is especially true in the elderly. In fact, seniors are not only more prone to come down with pneumonia, they also are at a greater risk of dying from it.

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that affects the tiny air sacs known as alveoli. When alveoli become inflamed, breathing becomes more difficult. In some cases, alveoli fill with fluid, decreasing lung capacity.

In many cases, older adults with pneumonia also suffer from co-morbid conditions such as heart disease. This prevents them from fighting infection as well as younger people.

Pneumonia is commonly treated with antibiotics and most pneumonia patients can be treated at home. However, more severe cases require hospitalization. Seniors with severe cases of pneumonia often are admitted to the ICU. They also may be intubated, placed on a respirator or require advanced breathing treatments.

When an elderly parent is discharged from the hospital after a bout of pneumonia, it can be scary for both the patient and their family. If a senior has existing health conditions, namely those of the respiratory system, recovery can take up to two months and can be particularly challenging. Just because your loved one has been discharged from the hospital, it doesn’t mean that they are fully recovered.

Here are some things to consider as your loved one continues to recover from pneumonia at home:

  1. Antibiotics will likely continue to be required. This, and all medications, must be taken per doctor’s orders. If your loved one stops taking medication too soon, a relapse can occur.
  2. Drinking plenty of water is critical. Water allows the body’s mucus membranes to remain moist. Further, if a cough expectorant is prescribed, proper hydration is required for it to be effective.
  3. Breathing treatments with a nebulizer are common so it is important that you and anyone else who will be caring for your parent knows how to give these treatments.
  4. Cool mist humidifiers or vaporizers keep the air moist and make breathing easier for the patient. They also help to calm coughs.
  5. If your loved one’s heart rate is higher than normal or breathing seems rapid or labored, this may indicate a relapse. In such cases it is important to contact your parent’s doctor immediately.
  6. Sleep and proper nutrition are essential to healing. Sleep is an important part of the healing process. Even if your loved one sleeps through the night, they still may need a nap during the day. Eating right also is important since a healthy diet will boost the body’s immune system.

Caring for an elderly parent recovering from pneumonia is a serious task and you likely will need help. Since it is impossible for most people to be with their loved on 24 hours a day, you may want to consider hiring an in-home assisted living provider. Such a provider will help monitor your loved one and even assist with light housekeeping tasks. Finally, it is important to remember that you can only be there for your loved one if you remain healthy.