Common infections like influenza or a urinary tract infection can happen to anyone, but amongst those over the age of 65, infections may be much harder to diagnose. This can lead to a higher risk of hospitalization, chronic poor health, and ongoing discomfort. In fact, around a third of all deaths of seniors over the age of 65 are attributed to infectious diseases. While seniors are already more susceptible to infection, those in long-term care or living with dementia are at an even greater risk. That is one of the reasons that we wanted to focus on the most common infections in the elderly.
Seniors are at an increased risk of gastrointestinal infections because of age-related changes to gastrointestinal flora and their digestion. Two of the most common infections are Helicobacter pylori (which causes fever, upper abdominal pain, and nausea) and Clostridium difficile (an increasingly common diarrhea-causing infection).
Pneumonia and influenza combined are the sixth leading cause of death in America. The vast majority of those deaths (90 percent) are senior adults. The risk of developing serious complications from influenza is because of chronic conditions and a weakened immunity. Another problem is that the disease is easily transmitted via sneezing and coughing. The common symptoms include chills, fever, and cough.
What is the leading cause of seniors over the age of 65 being admitted to hospitals? Pneumonia (in fact, it is more than 60 percent). There are several reasons why seniors are at an increased risk for pneumonia, including increased susceptibility due to other conditions, increased exposure to disease in community settings, and changes in lung capacity. It is important to be aware of non-respiratory symptoms such as delirium, confusion, and weakness.
Elderly skin infections
Aging skin comes with a number of changes, including a limited ability to resist disease and heal itself. This means that as we get older, skin infections are more likely to occur. This includes cellulitis, fungal foot infections, pressure ulcers, and herpes zoster (shingles). It is important to be aware of pain, lesions, and unusual skin itching.
Urinary tract infections
The most common bacterial infection in older adults is a urinary tract infection. The presence of diabetes or use of catheters can increase the risk of this issue. Common warning signs include the onset of urinary incontinence, worsening of dementia, or confusion. Urinary tract infections in seniors are not necessarily accompanied by discomfort or pain. In order to prevent a urinary tract infection, it is important to drink plenty of water.