Helping Seniors With Respiratory Issues

Of the various health concerns that seniors have to deal with, respiratory issues are prominent. They can occur at any time and will affect daily living significantly. As such, providers of hospice care services advise that you need to be vigilant in protecting your older loved ones against these. Here is a guide on helping seniors deal with respiratory infections and protecting their lungs.

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Aging And Respiration

As we age, there are a lot of changes that happen to our respiratory system. These changes affect our ability to breathe in and process oxygen. That also significantly affects other body functions that require a constant oxygen supply. 

The Lungs

Your lungs reach the peak of their growth by the age of 35. From there, its function starts to decline gradually. This decline is due to several changes. 

  • The air sacs lose their shape
  • Lung tissues lose their elasticity, leading to narrower airways
  • The diaphragm weakens and decreases your ability to inhale and exhale properly
  • Your ribcage changes shape, limiting its ability to expand and contract when breathing. 

Because of these changes, you might find it slightly harder to breathe as you become older. However, that doesn’t result in any significant symptoms in healthy people. Thus, any such symptoms may indicate major health issues. 

Other Changes

Other changes affect your overall respiratory health. One of these is the weakening of the nerves in the airways. These trigger your cough reflex to expel foreign particles. However, they can become less sensitive, leading to a buildup of these particles. 

Additionally, your immune system weakens as you age. That can make you more susceptive to various infections like pneumonia and influenza. Such conditions can aggravate whatever medical condition you might already have.

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The Common Respiratory infections Affecting Seniors

There are various issues that can affect your respiratory system during your senior years. Some of these might be mild but can still affect your daily life. The more severe conditions can lead to various complications that will impact your overall health. Here are the common respiratory infections that you should be aware of. 


This condition arises when your lungs get inflamed due to various reasons. That makes breathing a lot harder. While asthma can happen at an early age, it can also emerge later in life. This adult-onset asthma can be harder for seniors who have weaker respiratory systems. However, you can reverse the condition through proper management. 


Bronchitis happens when the tissues lining your bronchial tube become inflamed. That leads to constant coughing, which can also be accompanied by coughing up thickened mucus. Two types of bronchitis can affect older people. 

  • Acute: A temporary condition, which might be due to an infection in the airway. It usually goes away after 10 days. 
  • Chronic: This happens when the inflammation becomes recurring. It can often be due to smoking or prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals. 

Note that acute bronchitis can turn chronic if hot treated immediately. Hence, you need to take care of it as early as possible. 


Emphysema is a dangerous condition that is caused by smoking. Here, the lungs’ air sacs become so damaged that they burst. It leaves pockets in the lung tissues. The condition can gradually develop for years and has no cure. 


This disease is due to the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is a form of pneumonia that affects the air sacs. However, it can also spread to other parts of the body like the spine and the brain. Fortunately, it is easy to cure tuberculosis through antibiotics. However, the treatment process can still take some time. 


This is a family of diseases that occur when lung tissues get damaged due to foreign matter that you inhale. It can significantly impair your ability to breathe and affect your daily routine. Such conditions can develop for years without symptoms until later in life. They are often tied to the work environment that patients move around in. 

Lung Cancer

This form of cancer is the leading cause of death from the disease in America. It can appear in any part of the lungs and is often hard to detect. Because of this, the symptoms might take years to develop. Doctors are still not sure what triggers lung cancer, but evidence points to various chemicals that can cause other lung conditions.

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Helping Seniors Maintain A Healthy Respiratory System

Because these conditions can take a long time to develop, prevention is often the best cure. Thus, it is best to maintain a healthy lifestyle early in life to help your body build a stronger respiratory system. Nevertheless, seniors can take the initiative to protect themselves from  respiratory infections even in their later years. 

Getting Enough Exercise

We have emphasized countless times how beneficial exercise is for overall senior health. Strengthening your lungs is yet another of these benefits. When you exercise, your heart beats faster and your lungs get to work harder. This activity strengthens them, ensuring that they can take the increased load. 

Aerobic exercises are the most suited for this purpose. There are many forms you can choose for your elderly loved ones depending on their level of physical fitness. You can also help them explore other methods like yoga and tai chi. 

Exercises For Seniors

Quitting Smoking

Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of harmful chemicals that can affect your lungs. It alone can lead to various conditions ranging from emphysema to lung cancer. Thus, you want to help your elderly loved one kick the habit. 

It can be somewhat challenging, especially if they have been longtime smokers. However, there are still many things you can do to convince them. First off, you can patiently explain to them the benefits of quitting. Relate these benefits to their current condition and explain how smoking is itself the root of those conditions. 

Another vital strategy here is helping your older loved ones to find alternatives to their tobacco habit. That can be particularly challenging for routine smokers, as they often use the habit to pass their time. When they start quitting, they will likely struggle to figure out what to do in their spare time. For that, you need to determine the usual times that your loved ones smoke. Look for activities that they can take during those times instead.

For instance, if they smoke frequently during their rest times, encourage activities that get them off their feet for a little. It can take a bit of time, but you need to be patient in convincing them.

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Help Your Older Loved Ones Breathe Easy With The Best Hospice Care In California

Helping your older loved ones stay fit and deal with respiratory infections will be an ongoing process. But you can guide them in the right direction with the help of good hospice care in California. Contact Amavi today! 


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