This year Respiratory Care Week is October 25-31 with the theme of ‘Changing the World One Breath at a Time’. It is especially relevant this year with the effects that COVID-19 can have on a person’s lungs causing them to become inflamed and leading to shortness of breath and coughing. Seniors have a higher risk of having severe COVID-19 symptoms and COVID-19 related deaths.
But even with COVID-19 being in the forefront of the news, we mustn’t forget the other debilitating lung conditions. Here are some of the respiratory illnesses that can affect seniors:
COPD – Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common conditions of COPD. They block airflow to the lungs causing symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing, and a chronic cough. Unfortunately, the damage to the lungs can’t be reversed, but rescue inhalers and steroids can help minimize further damage.
Asthma – Children are more commonly affected by asthma but seniors can also experience serious complications including difficulty breathing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Asthma can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms resemble those of COPD, but it’s important to get a correct diagnosis so proper treatment can be prescribed to prevent possible respiratory failure.
Pneumonia – This respiratory infection causes inflammation to the air sacs in the lungs leading to breathing problems. Seniors are more likely to have serious complications and a higher risk of death from pneumonia. If pneumonia is suspected, it’s important to see a doctor immediately for treatment.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) – This serious condition occurs most often when a senior is sick or has experienced a recent trauma. ARDS prevents the body’s organs from getting enough oxygen and can cause organ failure or death if not immediately treated.
Pleural Mesothelioma – This is a cancer that develops in the lungs and is caused by exposure to asbestos. It can take many years for its symptoms of buildup of fluid in the lungs, chronic coughing, and difficulty breathing to appear. Since it can take so long for symptoms to develop, seniors are inordinately most affected. Early detection and treatment are important in determining how long someone can live with Pleural Mesothelioma.
Ways to reduce the damaging effects
There steps that seniors can take to reduce the damaging effects of respiratory illnesses and help improve their lung function.
Checkups – The most important thing a senior can do is to check in with their doctor regularly. Getting an early diagnosis and the proper treatment will make a big difference in their quality of life. Remind them that they are loved by many and everyone wants to help them but that can only happen if they talk about their concerns and symptoms. Even mild symptoms could be a sign of serious issues so seniors should be honest with their doctor about how and what they are feeling.
Exercise – By being physically active, a senior’s lung function can improve and their respiratory system will be healthier and stronger. Help your loved one find a buddy to exercise with and remember to check in with a doctor for safe exercises that they can do.
Stop Smoking – Smoking plays a role in many respiratory illnesses so quitting is an important part of improving their respiratory health. Even if the senior isn’t smoking it’s just as important to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Check out 60plus.smokefree.gov with your loved one for tips on quitting smoking.
By Your Side is here if you need assistance in caring for your loved one. We are here to help by providing personal care, homemaking, companionship, transportation, and more so your loved one can continue living comfortably at home.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss how we can be a support for you and your loved one.