Why are the elderly more prone to infections?
As we age, our immune systems become weaker which makes us more susceptible to infections. Additional conditions or chronic age-related diseases can also contribute to immune weakness. Plus, some medications we take may also affect how our body protects itself against infection.
Social and economic factors can be a factor too. Lack of access to nutritious food, safe housing, support systems, and quality health care may lead to more infections. Many elderly live in nursing homes near other elderly people making it easier to pass and pick up an infection.
So, what do you look for in your loved one and what can you do to help prevent infection?
Signs of an infection in the elderly.
Fever is one of the main signs that an infection is present. But 30-50% of the elderly may not run a fever, so we must be aware of other signs of an infection. For example, they may be confused, not eating or drinking as usual, or sleeping more than usual. If they have an underlying chronic illness, it may get worse.
If you are caring for an elderly loved here are some tips to prevent infections:
- Frequent hand washing is still one of the easiest and best ways to prevent the spread of infections. We all should wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
- Wear gloves and facemasks when caring for the elderly.
- Clean and cover cuts and lesions. The elderly skin is thinner, drier, and more prone to breaks. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter and cause an infection.
- Clean and disinfect their surroundings and frequently touched items and surfaces. Wash bed linens and towels frequently. Make sure items such as thermometers and other medical supplies are sterilized.
- Vaccinations can reduce the risk of infections. Check with a medical professional to see what vaccinations might be needed.
- Seek medical help for any care where mistakes might cause an infection, such as caring for an open wound or cleaning around implanted ports.
- Make sure your loved one has enough food, medical supplies, and their prescriptions are filled so they don’t have to go out for supplies themselves.
- Be on the lookout for any signs of fever or changes in their appearance and behavior.
- Have an alternate caregiver that can fill in just in case you would get sick.
Contact By Your Side if you need help in caring for your loved one. Let us be a support in keeping them safe and healthy.