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Asthma and the Elderly

Though often considered a childhood condition, more than 2 million seniors suffer from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The incidence of asthma is increasing in the US and like other age groups, asthma diagnoses of people over age 65 is on the rise. Asthma is a perfectly treatable condition when precautions are taken. If you provide home care in Santa Clarita for a senior loved one, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Diagnosis Problems with the Elderly

Because the main symptoms of asthma are breathing difficulties and coughing, it may be mistaken for another condition, such as COPD, bronchitis and emphysema. When discussing this with the medical provider, it is important to be as accurate as possible in describing the onset of an episode. The time, place, and activities performed prior to an episode are particularly important, since asthma attacks are normally caused by an allergen. 

If asthma is suspected, a spirometry test should be performed. In the test, the patient will blow into a tube and the volume of forced air exhaled is measured. The patient will then be given a dose of an albuterol dilator and the test will be repeated. A deviation of more than 10 percent of the air volumes will indicate an asthmatic condition.

Treatment of Asthma in the Elderly Patient

The treatment is similar to treatment of children and younger adults, except additional precautions must be taken. First, a history of known allergens of the patient should be considered. Dust mites, mold, and pet dander are common indoor allergens. Pollen, airborne molds and ragweed are common outside allergens.

The first goal of the asthma management plan will be to avoid triggering allergens. Inside, this might mean additional cleaning to avoid dust build up, cleaning of HVAC ductwork and the use of air purifiers may help. Avoiding going outside pollen counts are high. In both cases, the use of over the counter or prescription allergy medications may prevent an attack.

The typical prescription medication for asthma is albuterol aerosol and steroids. Albuterol normally comes in the form of an inhaler, and is used only during an asthma attack. Oral steroids are taken on a regular basis, but only for a temporary period of time. Any the elderly patient and his or her live-in or hourly caregiver should be instructed on its use by the treating physician. 

Finally, asthma medications may have adverse interactions with other medications. Aspirin, NSAIDS, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors are known to interact with albuterol. A full and complete list of medications, both prescription and over the counter should be given to the medical professional supervising the asthma treatment.

If you are the primary caregiver for an aging relative and could use additional support meeting his or her care needs, don’t hesitate to call Home Care Assistance at 661.259.9914 today. We provide trusted part-time, respite, and live-in care for senior in Santa Clarita, offering customized care schedules and 24/7 availability. Reach out today!