Why Are Aging Adults More Vulnerable to Illness?

Elderly people may be more susceptible to illness than their younger counterparts. It’s essential that steps be taken to help seniors remain healthy because it can take longer for them to recover after an illness. Here are some reasons your senior loved one may be more susceptible to illness and what you can do about keeping him or her as healthy as possible.

Medication Side Effects

If your loved one is taking numerous prescription medications, side effects and adverse reactions may cause a compromised immune system. For example, medications to tame inflammation, such as steroids, can severely suppress immune function, which can make seniors more susceptible to illnesses such as viral, fungal, or bacterial infections. Taking multiple courses of antibiotics for urinary tract or other infections can also lower resistance. If you suspect your loved one’s medications are making him or her sick, have his or her doctor review the adverse reactions to determine if they’re causing issues with immunity.

Long-Term Care Living

If your loved one resides in a nursing home or assisted living facility, he or she may be more prone to illness. Respiratory, dermal, and gastrointestinal infections can spread like wildfire in communal living settings and may even cause your loved one to need 24-hour care. La Mesa families whose loved ones have poor immune function should consider alternative living arrangements, or at least request that he or she be transferred to a private room. While a single room doesn’t guarantee your loved one won’t develop an infection, it significantly reduces the risk. Also, gently remind your loved one to frequently wash his or her hands, as this may be the most important strategy in preventing infection. Getting a flu shot also staves off the influenza viral infection.

Nutritional Deficiencies

As people age, they sometimes lose their appetites, which can happen as a result of illness, medication side effects, and loneliness or depression. Because of a low appetite, your loved one may develop a nutritional deficit that compromises his or her immune function. Deficiencies that may have negative effects on immunity include vitamin C and vitamin D deficiencies. Before encouraging your loved one to take nutritional supplements, check with his or her physician. Seniors who take vitamin and mineral supplements without a true deficiency may develop a toxicity, which could be more of a health threat than a deficiency.

Social Isolation

Many seniors are socially isolated because they’ve lost friends, a spouse, or other family members or because they’re unable to leave the home because of mobility issues, which can cause serious depression and other psychological conditions. It’s thought that loneliness, social isolation, depression, and anxiety play a role in immune suppression, which heightens the risk for developing infections and perhaps even cardiac issues and hypertension. If your loved one seems sad, is unable to leave the home, or appears anxious, make a doctor’s appointment. The doctor can examine your loved one to make sure the symptoms aren’t medical in nature, and if no organic cause is found, a referral to a mental health professional may be recommended.

The natural effects of growing older make aging adults more vulnerable to illness, even if they’re living a healthy lifestyle. If your elderly loved one needs help managing an illness, making healthy choices, or performing daily tasks, reach out to us at Coast Care Partners, a premier provider of elderly care La Mesa families trust to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable at home. Call us today at 619-354-2544 to learn how we can help your loved one live a happier, healthier life in the golden years.