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Helping Seniors Breath Better—Respiratory Care

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Helping Seniors Breath Better—Respiratory Care

October 23rd – 29th is Respiratory Care Week, it is a week set aside each year to recognize respiratory therapists for their hard work and loyalty to those in need of respiratory therapy. To support those who help others with their respiratory health, A Senior Connection has put together some information to help bring awareness to lung health and issues in older adults.

There are numerous causes for respiratory issues, most of which are quite common to the elderly population.

Many elements in your everyday lives, such as, genetics, pollutants and irritants —can disturb the health of your lungs. The more common ones include:

The Common Cold and Flu – both are highly contagious; however, the common cold is very different from the flu; a cold is thought to be the most rampant upper respiratory infection caused by over one hundred different viruses.

The flu, on the other hand is caused by three different types of viruses. The cold and flu are responsible for heavy mucus on the chest that may lead to chronic respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, seen especially among the elderly.

Pneumonia – is a common inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection with a bacterium or virus. Older adults are more susceptible to pneumonia following the flu or during lengthy hospital stays.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – is a lung disease which is known for its hallmark difficulty in “blowing air out.” The elderly are especially prone to this disease, often the result of misdiagnosis.  Seniors with serious breathing problems take in less oxygen and therefore have less energy to conduct daily life. As a result they often feel tired, anxious, and depressed. The help of caregivers becomes increasingly important as the disease progresses.

Bronchitis – is a form of COPD responsible for excessive amounts of mucus on the chest causing a bad cough.

Asthma – more than 20 million people have asthma in the United States; it is a long-term lung disease triggered by irritants such as smoke, dust and pet dander which tighten the airways.

Breathing Easy--How Respiratory Therapists Help

Because respiratory disorders are so prevalent and affect a wide range of age groups, respiratory therapists play a vital role in rehabilitating millions suffering from breathing troubles.

Respiratory therapists work mainly in hospitals and skilled care facilities. Seniors often benefit from their helping hands in assisted living communities as well. By facilitating medication management and other relevant services, assisted living communities are designed to help support seniors who struggle with breathing issues.

Therapeutic options

There are also a variety of therapeutic approaches that can help manage breathing difficulties on both a medical and a lifestyle level. If the senior is able, encouraging regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles in and around the lungs that may have weakened as a result of age or disease. Health in Aging also recommended that seniors consume fluids whenever possible. Nonalcoholic beverages, particularly water, can encourage the production of mucus within the lungs - the body's natural way of clearing out any obstructions that may be impeding breathing.

 Just like retraining a muscle in physical therapy after injury or surgery, respiratory specialists work with seniors on a regular basis to teach techniques and exercises designed to make breathing easier.


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