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Common Causes of Respiratory Issues with Seniors

Breathing is one of the most basic functions of the human body and without it, we cannot survive. In humans, the respiratory system that helps us breathe properly consists of the mouth, nose, larynx, voice box, lungs, and diaphragm, as well as bronchial tubes, capillaries, bronchioles, and alveoli. When any of these parts are damaged or obstructed, the result is not only difficulty breathing but also problems in other areas of the body as connections are disrupted in other systems. The lungs and respiratory muscles weaken with age and co-existing conditions are more common in older adults, making seniors more susceptible to respiratory issues than younger people. Respiratory therapy improves respiratory issues from the following conditions experienced by residents of long-term care facilities:

  • Lung cancer
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • COPD
  • Heart failure

What are the Symptoms and Warning Signs of Respiratory Issues?

Depending on the cause, respiratory issues can arise suddenly or can build up and worsen over time. Some breathing issues are temporary, caused by illnesses that may clear up on their own, but it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible to rule out serious and chronic conditions and begin treatment if necessary. Wheezing and shortness of breath are both signs that something is blocking the airway, especially if it occurs with just a small bit of physical exertion. If a cough persists for several weeks or a month, or you are coughing up blood, this is an indication that respiratory care may be necessary. Chronic and prolonged chest pain is also a sign of a more serious problem that requires the care of a respiratory therapist. If left untreated, people with respiratory issues may notice the following symptoms that make even the most basic of everyday tasks more difficult:

  • Coughing spells
  • Interrupted or fitful sleep
  • Swelling in the lower extremities
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Exhaustion
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Muscle pain
  • Lung pain
  • Gasping for air

How to Prevent And Lessen Respiratory Issues

Though many of the causes of respiratory issues cannot be cured, there are steps you can take to protect your lungs. Even if you or your loved one are not yet experiencing the symptoms and warning signs above, making basic lifestyle changes can protect the lungs and keep them in better shape.

  • Hygiene: The best way to avoid getting sicknesses that may affect the respiratory system is to practice good hygiene habits such as hand washing, proper food handling, and regular bathing.
  • Smoking: Quitting may not be easy, but it is never too late. The benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately.
  • Indoor Air Pollution: It is important to keep your home environment free of pollutants including secondhand smoke.
  • Outdoor air pollution: You cannot control the rest of the world, but avoiding places with high concentrations of smoke and smog will improve lung function. Spend time outdoors in nature and breathe in fresh air!
  • Exercise: Stay active to keep all your body systems in good condition!

Respiratory Therapy

Whether your loved one is already experiencing respiratory issues or you are simply concerned about their future health, Princeton Health Care Center can help. Our respiratory care services include both testing and treatment such as occupational therapy and other interventions to improve outcomes.

Contact us today to learn more about how our skilled nursing care facility can help you or your loved one live a higher quality life.


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