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Why Are the Elderly More Susceptible to Illnesses?

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Elderly immune systems are typically not as effective in preventing illness or infection compared to those of younger adults. There are a variety of factors that make seniors more susceptible to disease processes.

Insufficient Immune System

Older bodies don’t produce as many white blood cells, T-cells, and natural killer cells compared to when they were younger. Thus, there aren’t enough immune cells to recognize and combat new infections. In addition, the cells don’t communicate as effectively with one another. Plus, the chemicals that trigger an immune response are also often deficient. For these reasons, it takes longer for immune cells to react to an infection. The depleted numbers of immune cells may also lead to an inability to successfully fight an infection.

A weak immune system may increase the risk of seasonal infections and make it difficult for seniors to lead healthy lives. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional elder care. Sonoma County families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.

Circulatory Issues

Older adults often experience vascular problems that interfere with adequate blood flow. Vascular blockages or a weakened heart make it difficult for immune cells to quickly travel to the site of an invasion and trigger a response.

Drug-Induced Acquired Immunodeficiency

There are many medications seniors commonly take that damage white cells or interfere with their development. When the white cells decrease in number, seniors are more likely to become susceptible to infection. Their bodies also have a more difficult time recovering. Research each medication your loved one takes to learn about possible adverse effects. The medications known to endanger the immune system include these classifications: 

• Analgesics or pain relief formulas 
• Antibiotics 
• Anticonvulsants 
• Antidepressants 
• Antihypertensives 
• Antipsychotics 
• Antithyroids 
• Diuretics 
• H2RAs 
• Hypoglycemics 
• NSAIDS 
• Sedatives 
• Steroids

Malnutrition

Between 30 and 60 percent of seniors admitted to hospitals test positive for protein-energy malnutrition. Older adults need two to four ounces of protein each day, and they’re also often deficient in folic acid, iron, and vitamin B12. A lack of these nutrients may lead to anemia. Seniors need 300 micrograms of folic acid, 9 milligrams of iron, and 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily. Anemia interferes with the immune system by: 

• Impairing neutrophil function 
• Reducing the number of T cells 
• Impairing macrophage function 
• Impairing natural killer cell function 
• Inhibiting the production and release of chemical messengers that stimulate the immune cells

Poor Hygiene

Some older adults don’t take the time to regularly wash their hands. Any microbes they come in contact with are easily transferred to dishes, cutlery, and consumed foods. Food prep areas and bathrooms should also be disinfected regularly to minimize the bacterial count. Otherwise, seniors have an increased risk of developing an infection.

To prevent the risk of infections or seasonal allergies, following a healthy lifestyle is necessary. Maintaining a high quality of life can be challenging for some seniors, but professional caregivers can help them obtain this goal. Families can trust Sonoma County at-home care experts to help their elderly loved ones focus on lifestyle choices that increase the chances of living a longer and healthier life.

Insufficient Skin Barrier

Aging adults commonly have very thin skin. Skin tears and other types of wounds are a portal for infection. When combined with anemia, circulatory problems, hygiene issues, and a weak immune system, skin wounds are more likely to become infected. If left untreated, a more serious systemic infection may develop.

Sometimes family caregivers are unable to provide the care their loved one needs while reducing the risk of common ailments. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Sonoma County, CA, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Home Care Assistance. Using our proprietary Balanced Care Method, our respite caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity. To hire a caregiver for an aging loved one, get in touch with us today at (707) 843.4368.