It seems like you cannot turn on the TV now days without hearing about global pandemics and infectious diseases. And although that news is concerning for everyone, it is notably alarming for those aged 65-and-over.
For various reasons, seniors are at higher risk for getting an infection than are non-seniors. If you are concerned about protecting your aging-in-place parents from infections, here are some tips from the experts.
How Aging Affects Immunity
Once the average person reaches age 60 their immune system starts to gradually weaken, reducing their body’s ability to fight off infections. In addition to aging, other factors that can lower a senior’s natural immunity include malnutrition, lack-of-exercise, and immunosuppressant medications like chemotherapy drugs and corticosteroids.
Most Common Infections in Older Adults
These infections oftentimes target the elderly:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs). As the most common bacterial infection in aging adults, a UTI is more likely to occur with catheter use, or in seniors that have incontinence or diabetes.
- Skin infections. Changes to aging skin that reduce its ability to heal and resist disease result in skin infections caused by fungi, viruses, and bacteria.
- Influenza. Seniors with certain chronic health conditions are highly susceptible to catching the flu. Easily transmitted by coughing and sneezing, influenza can cause serious complications including pneumonia and even death.
- Bacterial pneumonia. Millions of seniors are admitted to hospitals every year because of bacterial pneumonia. Pre-existing medical conditions like chronic lung disease or swallowing difficulties increase one’s risk for getting this common infection.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) infections. Age-related changes to digestion and gastrointestinal flora put the elderly at risk for developing GI infections. Commonly found in long-term care facilities are Helicobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile- two disease-causing pathogens that infect countless seniors every year.
To make matters even worse, COVID-19 emerged on the scene this past year. When not taking the necessary precautions, any of these infections can lower your aging-in-place parent’s quality of life and place their independence at risk.
How to Minimize Infection Risks
Here are some effective ways to minimize your parents’ exposure to harmful microorganisms:
Focus on hygiene
Bathing, incontinence care and frequent handwashing are all easy ways to protect seniors from skin and respiratory infections. If you are not available to help them with their hygiene needs, hire a professional who can provide personal care services in the home.
Look for symptoms
Fever, shortness of breath and dehydration are all warning signs for the flu, COVID-19, and pneumonia. Lesions, unusual itching, or pain may indicate the presence of a skin infection. If you notice any of these symptoms contact their doctor’s office immediately for further instructions.
Anytime you feel sick, avoid your parents until you are back to 100%. If they have a professional caregiver be sure they are taking the same precautions. Continue to stay in touch with mom and dad through video chats, text messages or phone calls.
Diet and exercise
Good nutrition and regular exercise help strengthen a senior’s immunity. Prepare your parents nutritious meals and encourage them to do low impact exercises several times a week. A senior-healthy diet high in essential nutrients and fiber will help prevent many infections, including those related to diabetes or the GI tract. Since dehydration can make some infections worse, find ways to keep mom and dad properly hydrated throughout the day.
Keep them at home
Long-term care facilities can be breeding grounds for infectious diseases. Help protect your parents by keeping them comfortable at home for as long as possible. At some point, you may need to hire a professional caregiver from a licensed home care provider to assist you. Either way, you and your parents will sleep better at night!
We Keep Aging-in-Place Seniors Safe and Comfortable
Protecting your aging-in-place parents from infections can seem like a full-time job. When you need a break contact New Wave Home Care. As a fully licensed home care provider our highly trained caregivers follow strict infection-prevention protocols, including those for COVID-19. While serving as an extended family in the home, our compassionate professionals go above-and-beyond in their dedication to providing care for others, while making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Our mission is supporting clients and their families with personalized in-home care solutions like respite care, personal care, specialized care, transitional care, hospice support and medication reminders. At New Wave Home Care, it’s not just about caregiving. It’s about heart! To learn more now or to set up a FREE in-home assessment for a senior in the greater Los Angeles area please visit us at www.newwavehomecare.com!