Thursday, 17 August 2017 00:00

The 5 most common infections to look out for in the elderly

Some of the most frequent infections worldwide can happen to anyone – influenza, UTIs and even bladder infections are among the most commonly suffered infections in people from all walks of life at any age. But for those over the age of 65, these illnesses become all the more difficult to diagnose and detect – which can lead to chronic poor health, daily discomfort and a higher risk of hospitalisation.

If you notice symptoms such as a loss of appetite, decline in daily functioning, mental health changes, incontinence and more falls or frailty than usual – it may be a sign of any one of the following common infections:

Urinary Tract Infection

A is the most common form of bacterial infection found in the elderly, with the use of catheters and the presence of diabetes putting many older adults at higher risk. Changes in behaviour, such as increased confusion or urinary incontinence in dementia patients is a warning bell to look out for.

Pain or discomfort is not usually a symptom with many dementia or elderly patients, so if you suspect the onset of a UTI, contact their physician straight away.

Skin Infections

Some of the most common skin infections experienced by the elderly include the likes of viral infections such as herpes zoster, also known as shingles. Other infections to watch out for are things like pressure ulcers, bacterial or fungal foot infections – most commonly in diabetes patients, cellulitis and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Keep an eye out for skin itching, fresh lesions or pain in isolated areas.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Seniors are at greater risk of contracting pneumonia for a number of reasons, including a weakened lung capacity, increased exposure to bacteria in a community setting and an increased vulnerability to infection due to pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.

Older adults, especially those with dementia, do not display typical symptoms such as fever, chills or coughing, but rather weakness, confusion and delirium.


A weakened immune system combined with chronic pre-existing conditions makes many older adults highly susceptible to contracting the flu, which can often lead to more severe complications, such as developing into pneumonia. Common warning signs of flu are not necessarily shown by the elderly. Once again it’s important to look out for increased weakness, confusion and fragility.

Gastrointestinal Infections

The digestive system goes through many changes as we age, while the gastrointestinal flora and balance of our digestive system can also weaken over time. The elderly are most commonly susceptible to a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori, which causes nausea, upper abdominal pain and fever and can lead to long-term illness such as ulcers or gastritis.

Clostridium difficile is an increasingly common infection which causes diarrhoea, and can usually occurs after to antibiotic treatments.

As a care giver, it’s vitally important to be aware and understand the most commonly contracted infections, potential warning signs and how to go about getting your patient diagnosed and treated. Staying on top of your patient’s health can help to keep their quality of life at its best!

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