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9th Feb


Honolulu Senior Assisted Living Risks of Aspiration Pneumonia

Aging adults have an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia because many times they are in a weakened condition due to an existing illness. Aspiration pneumonia happens when a patient breathes in food or vomit, which allows bacteria into the lungs. This most often occurs because they are unable to cough and push the foreign substance out of the windpipe.


The result can be serious lung infections, which can make existing conditions worse or can be very dangerous all on their own. If you are reviewing Honolulu senior assisted living facilities, you will want to ensure they are aware and seem knowledgeable about the risks of aspiration.


Causes of Aspiration Pneumonia:


  • Inhaling vomit into the lungs
  • Gag reflex failure
  • ALS, Parkinson’s and stroke may create difficulty swallowing and coughing
  • Vomiting while unconscious

Types of Aspiration Pneumonia:


  • Chemical Pneumonia-Symptoms occur quickly after the triggering event and include increased breathing frequency, distressed breathing, increased body temperature and fever and coughing.


  • Bacterial Pneumonia-Occurs due to an inability to properly cough and swallow, which allows bacteria into the lungs causing an infection.

Swallowing is actually a much more complicated event than most people realize. There are many parts that all have to work together in order to move food properly along and end up in the right place. Chewing while simultaneously breathing, creating saliva to help reduce food, using your tongue to move food and swallowing all need to happen in a cohesive fashion. If a patient has trouble with any of these, then they are at risk of aspirating.


Proper Care and Prevention


It is important for Honolulu senior assisted living facilities to properly account for patients who are in a weakened state and susceptible to aspiration pneumonia. These patients should have a diet plan designed to put them at the lowest amount of risk possible.


Eating Safely


  • Using a straw may assist in controlling amounts taken in at one time
  • Cold and thick liquids are less dangerous
  • Avoid liquids that are very thin and problematic for patients who lack tongue and mouth control
  • Special diets can include softened food or pureed food
  • Check with your facility to see if special diets are available
  • Increased monitoring while eating

In addition to preventing aspiration pneumonia, it is important a facility is also knowledgeable in treating infections once they occur. Lung infections can be extremely serious and potentially life threatening, especially in patients who are older and already battling an existing disease.

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