While we often think of cancer, heart issues, or respiratory problems as being the ailments that will plague seniors the most, it’s actually some of the more common elderly infections that can quickly turn deadly for the elderly. For example, infectious diseases account for one-third of all deaths in people over the age of 65, according to the AAFP. More than 90 percent of all deaths from pneumonia occur in people over 65. Even a common infection such as influenza is far more deadly to the elderly than to others. The recent upswing in the appearance of drug-resistant bacteria, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), is of particular concern to the elderly since they are more likely to be exposed to such organisms in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Whether it’s at home, in a nursing care community, or at another type of healthcare facility, these infections can happen. It’s important to know which infections to look out for and the best way to prevent common elderly infections.
Preventing and Identifying Common Elderly Infections
Elderly Skin Infections
It’s no secret that as we age, our skin begins to lose that elasticity and we begin to get wrinkles. However, not only does our skin lose its elasticity, it also begins to lose its thickness as well. This can often make your skin more susceptible to infection and issues like shingles, bacterial infections, MRSA. Also, for those spending too much time in the sun, it could lead to sun spots or even worse, skin cancer. Look for any redness or irritation on certain parts of the skin, and if you see or feel anything unusual, make sure to consult a dermatologist. This is one of the easiest common elderly infections to identify, so make sure you’re maintaining awareness. Ward off other skin infections by practicing good hygiene such as proper hand washing, particularly if living in a senior care community.
Probably the deadliest of the common elderly infections, Influenza becomes especially dangerous the older we get. Although flu vaccines are continually available, our aging immune systems make it harder to fight off bacterial infections and viruses. Influenza is a common respiratory infection that has an enormous impact worldwide and causes significant morbidity and mortality in older adults. Influenza is responsible for more than $1 billion in annual Medicare expenditures. Of deaths resulting from Influenza, 80 to 90 percent occur in adults 65 years and older. As we grow older, it’s important to take every cold or bout of coughing seriously. Influenza is something that needs to be detected right away, so don’t be afraid to pay your doctor a visit even if your cold seems like a small issue. These common elderly infections can sneak up on you, so stay vigilant when it comes to your body.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are the most common bacterial infection in older adults, the AAFP reported. The use of catheters or the presence of diabetes can increase the risk of UTIs in elderly people. Sudden changes in behavior, such as confusion or worsening of dementia, or the onset of urinary incontinence, are common warning signs — discomfort and pain don’t necessarily happen with UTIs in seniors. While this may not seem like a big issue, UTIs can become very painful if left untreated and can lead to bigger issues like bladder infections and other ailments. Make sure to drink plenty of water and go to the bathroom on a regular basis to avoid UTIs.
If you’re still unsure about an ailment that you or your loved one is facing, check out our health conditions guide and consult a doctor as soon as possible.