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What Are the Signs of Pneumonia in Seniors?

a doctor checks for signs of Pneumonia in seniors

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can affect one or both lungs. The alveoli (tiny air sacs) fill with pus or bacteria, becoming inflamed and causing coughing fits, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms ranging from mild to severe. While treatable, it is particularly dangerous for children under two years of age and seniors 65 and older. The immune system weakens with age, and older adults tend to have chronic health conditions that increase their risk for pneumonia.

Buckner Villas is a faith-based senior living community in Austin, Texas, which is recognized as one of the best places to retire in our nation. Buckner Villas is the premier choice for senior living in Austin. Above all else, our commitment is to the health and well-being of our residents. Our health and wellness programs provide opportunities for all residents to thrive and live their best lives. Call 512.580.9882 to learn more about senior living at Buckner Villas.

Early Warning Signs of Pneumonia in Seniors

While pneumonia is very treatable, it does present a significant health concern for older adults. According to the American Thoracic Society, pneumonia causes over 50,000 deaths each year in our nation, so it is vital that seniors, their family members, and caregivers can recognize the early warning signs of pneumonia, which include:

  • Feeling excessively weak or tired
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lower than average body temperature
  • Chest or rib pain while coughing or breathing

Many people mistakenly believe pneumonia causes fever, but that is not always the case. Early symptoms of pneumonia can mimic a common cold or flu. Seniors with underlying health issues can quickly worsen and need immediate medical care. Further, they can experience sudden changes in mental awareness and functioning. Pneumonia can soon become a life-threatening condition for seniors, especially those with underlying health conditions, so it is critical to seek treatment as soon as there is any suspicion of pneumonia.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia in Seniors?

For most people, pneumonia symptoms mimic the common flu but seem more aggressive in older adults. Seniors with pneumonia can experience different symptoms than those in younger age groups, such as:

  • Feeling weak or unsteady (increasing the risk of falls)
  • Experiencing confusion or delirium
  • Having a lower than average body temperature
  • Lack of appetite
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Lacking the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Worsening of existing health conditions

Pneumonia can be more challenging to recognize in older adults since the symptoms can be more subtle unless they’re in another health crisis. Additionally, seniors may diminish their symptoms until they become more severe.

What Are the Stages of Pneumonia in Seniors?

Pneumonia can affect anyone, with a range of symptoms. It is critical for seniors and their caregivers to recognize this condition’s early warning signs and symptoms for effective treatment. It is equally important to understand the four stages of pneumonia, which are:

  • Congestion – Due to infectious fluid in the alveoli, the lungs start to feel heavy. People experience coughing, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, fatigue, and a sense of heaviness in the chest.
  • Red hepatization – Red blood cells and immune cells enter the lungs to fight the infection, giving the lungs a red appearance. Symptoms worsen and can now include shortness of breath, headache, muscle aches, fever, chills, sweating, and blue lips or fingernails.
  • Grey hepatization – Red blood cells disintegrate, giving the lungs a greyish color. Immune cells remain and continue fighting the infection, but symptoms persist.
  • Resolution – Immune cells continue fighting the infection, symptoms improve, and seniors start feeling better. They may develop a productive cough to remove remaining fluids from the lungs.

If you suspect that you or an elderly loved one has pneumonia, seek help right away. Pneumonia can develop quickly, especially in seniors with underlying health conditions. Early treatment promotes better outcomes. Full recovery from pneumonia can take several weeks.

Contact Buckner Villas to Learn About Our Health and Wellness Programs

At Buckner Villas, our health and wellness programs are among the numerous services we provide to residents of our faith-based senior living community in Austin, Texas. Health and wellness services include, but are not limited to:

  • Transportation services
  • Medication management
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Fitness classes
  • Support groups
  • Social clubs

Reach out to our team using our secure online form or call 512.580.9882.