Even though pneumonia is a serious illness for most individuals contracting the disease, it can often be successfully treated at home. Seniors, however, or more specifically, those with compromised immune systems or other health issues, may require hospitalization. Because pneumonia causes fluid to be collected in the lungs as well as inflammation, seniors can experience difficulty in breathing. High fever and rapid heart rate often accompany the symptoms of pneumonia along with a cough and rapid, labored breathing.
Care provided in a hospital usually involves intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Hospital staff usually monitor vital signs such as temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, as well as breathing, to ensure the condition improves under their care. Most bacterial pneumonia responds well to antibiotics. Pneumonia caused by a virus is not treated with antibiotics as medicine does not kill viral infections. Viral pneumonia usually resolves on its own although a health care provider will likely treat the symptoms.
Release from the hospital may be a relief but does not indicate the senior has fully recovered. Pneumonia is particularly taxing on the body, resulting in a feeling of tiredness. It may take a while for the senior to regain strength and feel good again. This home recovery period can be crucial for pneumonia patients. In order to fully recover, it is important to follow the health care provider’s directions. Be aware of your loved one’s body and if you or him or her feel any slight decline, contact your doctor for advice.
Some things you can expect during the home recovery period include continuation of an antibiotic and an order by the doctor to keep hydrated. Medicine, including each and every dose, should be taken for as long as it has been prescribed. Failure to do so may allow levels of bacteria to remain, grow and possibly cause a relapse. Drinking plenty of water aids the mucus membranes in the body to remain moist and healthy. If prescribed, a cough expectorant may help clear your loved one’s lungs of excess mucus, but know that this type of medicine requires proper hydration to be effective.
The senior may be sent home with a nebulizer for breathing treatments. Make sure you, any other caregivers, and the senior, him or herself, are well-trained in using the machine for optimum effectiveness. Additionally, cool mist humidifiers or vaporizers help keep the air moist inside the home and may make breathing easier and ease lingering coughs.
Upon coming home, you may be asked to monitor the senior’s heart rate and the number of breaths taken each minute during a state of rest. A higher than normal heart rate and/or excessive breathing may signify a relapse.
The senior can expect a cough and general fatigue to last for some time after pneumonia subsides. It is essential for the senior to get ample sleep as well as proper nourishment during this time. If nighttime sleep is interrupted, encourage a nap during the day. Rest helps the body’s healing process just as maintaining a healthy diet can boost the immune system. It is important that the senior not smoke or venture outdoors if there is smoke from a fire in the air as this can hinder the breathing process and cause infection in the lungs. Alcohol consumption should be avoided as it can inhibit the effectiveness of antibiotics.
Above all, make sure you and the senior have plenty of help when you need it from family, friends, or other caregivers. Those close to the senior can help monitor progress as well as lend a helping hand around the house. Sometimes, just a little extra tender loving care can provide a much needed boost to becoming well.
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Drugs.com (2009). Pneumonia. Retrieved on December 1, 2012 from http://www.drugs.com/cg/pneumonia-aftercare-instructions.htmlωprintable=1.
Physicians Desk Reference (2011). Pneumonia in adults treatment. Retrieved on December 2, 2012 from http://www.pdrhealth.com/diseases/pneumonia-in-adults/treatment.
BMJ Publishing Group Limited (2010). Pneumonia. Retrieved on December 3, 2012 from http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/pdf/patient-summaries/community-acquired-pneumonia-standard.pdf.