Magazine article USA TODAY

Why Do the Elderly Get Infections?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Why Do the Elderly Get Infections?

Article excerpt

Elderly people residing in nursing homes get often-deadly infections at a growing rate each year, due to their bodies' changes with age and characteristics of the nursing home environment. Since the number of elderly patients requiring nursing home care is increasing as Americans age, health care practitioners need to know the risk factors for these infections and the best methods of managing them, says Michael Ernst, assistant professor (clinical) in the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, Ames.

He notes that more than 1,500,000 infections occur annually in U.S. nursing homes, with around 10-20 per 100 residents per month. This means about one or two infections for each resident each year, and these figures are most likely underreported. The most common are bacterial pneumonia and urinary tract, skin, and soft tissue infections. The increased rates of infection are caused in part by bodily changes as patients grow older, including less elastic skin, lower respiratory and gastrointestinal ability, and the presence of comorbid illnesses--chronic diseases, like diabetes or asthma, which make the patient more susceptible to infection and immune system ailments. …

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