Delirium and Dementia May Be Pneumonia Symptoms in Older Adults


Confusion and disorientation in senior citizens may not always be Alzheimer’s disease. Research links temporary mental ailments like delirium and dementia to common underlying infections, most likely pneumonia. An antibiotic like Levaquin (Levofloxacin) that fights bacterial infections can help you recover from both conditions. Access this pharmacy’s contact information and hours with one easy click.

How Infections Affect Brain Functions

Delirium and Dementia May Be Pneumonia Symptoms in Older AdultsA study associated exposure to common infections with brain function declines and worsening memory — even when subjects didn’t become sick or exhibit symptoms. It linked deteriorating cognitive performance to antibody levels including those that contribute to lung inflammation and pneumonia. This lung condition may affect reasoning and planning abilities, mental processing speed, abstract thinking, and recall.

Serious downgrades in mental abilities that interfere with your daily life constitute dementia. Infections can trigger signs like diminished awareness, misperceptions, and short-term memory loss. The Alzheimer’s Association classifies dementia as significant impairments in two or more of these functions:

  • Memory
  • Language and communication
  • Abilities to pay attention and focus
  • Judgment and reasoning
  • Visual perceptions

As baby boomers become more elderly, pneumonia-induced dementia surfaces more often. Carlos Barrera, M.D., reports that America’s over-65 population is larger than ever, and it will continue growing over several years before it begins to decline. If you or a relative experiences drastic mental or behavioral changes, don’t wait to see what other symptoms develop. Barrera advises consulting a doctor right away.

Pneumonia Causes and Symptoms

Breathing bacterial or viral germs causes the lung inflammation of pneumonia usually. Pus or liquid fills your air sacs. This lowers your lungs’ ability to transfer much-needed oxygen to your blood properly. Pneumonia may follow the flu or a cold, which lowers your lungs’ ability to fight off infections. Long-term and chronic diseases like asthma, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes also make you more susceptible to this lung infection.

Cognitive status changes including delirium, confusion, and dementia are major pneumonia signs among seniors. You may not have typical symptoms that signal pneumonia or upper respiratory infections, notes Barrera. Minimal signs might include a slight fever. Other additional warning signs that may or may not occur include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough that may produce sputum
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sweating
  • Chills that cause shaking
  • High fever
  • Joint pain and muscle aches
  • Purplish or dusty skin from insufficient oxygen
  • Cool, clammy skin

Viral and bacterial pneumonia symptoms are similar. Signs caused by viruses might come on gradually, be more subtle, and produce reduced illness.

Diagnosis and Recovery

Diagnosis and RecoveryAny severe and sudden mental function changes necessitate a doctor’s visit. Pinpointing the cause enables your physician to prescribe the most effective pneumonia treatment. Chest X-rays and CT scans can detect excess liquid in your lungs. A mucus test can establish if your pneumonia is bacterial. But bloodwork might not confirm a pneumonia diagnosis because white blood cell counts that indicate infections don’t always increase by much.

You can be very sick with this bacterial infection, but most people can take antibiotics at home and recover in two or three weeks. Follow your doctor’s dosing instructions exactly. Experts advise seeking immediate medical care if you start feeling worse. Also contact your doctor’s office if your symptoms don’t start diminishing after two or three days on antibiotics. But don’t stop your medication when you feel better. A full course of treatment is necessary to recover.

Pneumonia doesn’t cause serious complications among healthy patients under 65 usually. But if you’re older, have other acute diseases, bad symptoms, or a weakened immune system, you can become seriously ill and require hospitalization.

Doctors don’t treat viral pneumonia with antibiotics. You just have to let your illness run its course. Some patients take antibiotics to ward off complications. To promote comfort and healing during both bacterial and viral pneumonia recovery periods, drink ample liquids, get lots of sleep and rest, and don’t smoke.

Infection Prevention

Risk factors for pneumonia include:

  • Age extremes including 1-year-olds and seniors over 65
  • Smoking
  • Having the flu or a cold
  • Weakened immune system from cancer treatment, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or additional diseases
  • Surgery
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Long-term lung conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Ongoing illnesses including lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes

Experts recommend pneumococcal immunizations for children, adults, and people who are 65 and up, smoke, or have long-lasting health conditions. It might not stop you from contracting pneumonia, but you’ll probably be less sick if it develops. Annual influenza vaccines also are important because pneumonia can develop after a flu bout. Visit your doctor for any cough that worsens after three to four days. Seek immediate medical care if you’re coughing up odd-colored and foul-smelling phlegm, or blood.

Reduce your odds of coming down with pneumonia by avoiding people with colds, flu, chickenpox, and measles. If you catch any of those illnesses, you could get pneumonia afterward. Washing your hands thoroughly and often will help prevent bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia from spreading. Also eat ample vegetables and fruits, be physically fit, and sleep enough to strengthen your immune system to fight off infections.