October 23rd – 29th is Respiratory Care Week. During this week healthcare professionals and patients recognize respiratory therapists and acknowledge the importance of respiratory care. Older adults, especially those with two or more chronic conditions, require constant assessment of both acute and chronic respiratory function. Many factors including aging, genetics, pollutants and irritants can affect lung health. The common cold and flu can cause upper respiratory infections and chronic respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
Older adults are more susceptible to pneumonia, inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection with a bacterium or virus, following the flu or during lengthy hospital stays. Age-related changes in the lung strength compound the effects of heart and lung diseases. Patients with a history of smoking or long-term exposure to environmental pollutants may be at increased risk for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is characterized by difficulty exhaling or in “blowing air out.” Chronic conditions or age-related decline in heart function can limit mobility and capabilities for exercise. This may decrease aerobic exercise that can strengthen respiratory muscles and support breathing.