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Pneumonia In Seniors: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Caregivers Concern, Caregiving, Community, Resources

Pneumonia refers to the inflammation of the lungs which can be caused by bacteria. The air sacs in the lungs are filled with pus and when the infection is severe, oxygen has trouble reaching the blood. More than half of the cases of pneumonia are caused by bacteria. Other causes could include viruses and mycoplasma. 

While no one is ever “safe” from pneumonia, seniors need to take extra precaution as they are more susceptible to this condition and the effects may be far more intense for older persons, with it being potentially life-threatening. 

Here, we discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment options for seniors with pneumonia. 

Symptoms of pneumonia
  • Chest discomfort, pain when coughing or even breathing
  • Shortness of breath, hastened heart rates
  • Increasing confusion or temporary unconsciousness especially in older adults
  • High fever or very low temperatures (below 35 degrees)
  • Nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting
  • Fatigue


Common causes

Pneumonia infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or chemical and physical injury. It is a lung inflammation that most often follows bacterial or viral respiratory infections. Frequent causes include the common cold (e.g. rhinovirus infection), Influenza (flu), COVID-19, pneumococcal disease or respiratory syncytial viral (RSV) infection.

In pneumonia, the alveoli (air-filled sacs in the lungs responsible for absorbing oxygen) are filled with pus and other fluids making it difficult for oxygen to reach the blood. With little oxygen in the blood, body cells cannot function properly. When the lungs become congested with fluids, breathing becomes difficult.


Treatment for pneumonia in seniors

The symptoms of pneumonia are likely to be more severe in older persons – chronic diseases such as heart and lung disease tend to be more prevalent in older persons, thus making one even more susceptible to pneumonia. Given that pneumonia leads to more complications in older persons, hospitalisation and other supportive therapies might be needed.

As a first course of action, the doctor would typically prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial pneumonia and one can expect to get better in 2-4 weeks. If you come down with other symptoms such as cough and fever, the doctor would likely also prescribe cough and fever medicine.

However, for more serious cases where we see individuals over the age of 65 with pre-existing health ailments, hospitalisation might be recommended by the doctor as a form of precaution if pneumonia worsens. 



Better to be safe than sorry – in trying to prevent pneumonia, it is important that seniors wash their hands regularly and abstain from touching the eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands. Bacteria and germs are more easily transmitted when we do not maintain good sanitary habits. Additionally, leading a healthy lifestyle with a balanced, nutritious diet alongside regular exercise strengthens our immunity, reducing the likelihood of contracting pneumonia. 


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About Growing Needs

Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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