Many caregivers notice their senior loved ones are more likely to get sick or tend to have difficulty recovering from injuries. This happens because the immune system has a difficult time fighting off foreign microorganisms as a person ages. Being able to understand why the immune system gets weaker as people get older can help you make sure your aging family member stays as healthy as possible.
How Aging Affects T-Cells
T-cells are a specific type of white blood cells that play an important role in killing off harmful organisms. They’re produced by the thymus gland, which shrinks as a person ages. Though a person’s overall number of T-cells doesn’t change with age, the body produces fewer new T-cells. The older T-cells don’t work as well as the new ones, especially when they encounter an illness the body hasn’t already developed an immunity to, which makes it harder for the body to handle infectious diseases such as pneumonia and influenza.
If your loved one does contract an illness such as flu or pneumonia, you can gain peace of mind by hiring a professional caregiver to assist with your loved one’s recovery. Living alone at home in the golden years can present a few unique challenges. Trust elderly home care professionals to help your senior loved one maintain a higher quality of life while he or she lives with an illness and performs the daily tasks of living.
The Effect of Aging on Macrophages
Macrophages are another type of white blood cell the immune system uses to envelop harmful particles before they can cause problems. These cells are anti-inflammatory, so they don’t cause as much cellular inflammation as other types of immune responses. However, the macrophages in seniors slow down and aren’t as quick to respond to threats, resulting in higher levels of harmful inflammation whenever the body has to respond to a threat. One of their most important roles is to remove damaged cells from the body before they become cancerous, so slower macrophages may be part of the reason seniors get cancer more often than younger adults.
How Other Common Senior Illnesses Diminish Immunity
The immune system is a complicated network that involves various types of cells throughout the body, and it’s easily affected by anything else that happens to a senior, which means common health conditions in seniors may reduce overall immune capability. For example, type 2 diabetes tends to develop in people around the age of 64, and since it affects the way the body absorbs glucose, the cells of the immune system don’t get enough energy to function properly. Other illnesses that can affect the immune system include arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
If you’re caring for a loved one with chronic or serious health conditions, you don’t have to face the challenges alone. Caring for a senior loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming for family caregivers who have other responsibilities they need to focus on. For these families, the perfect solution is respite care. Oakville families rely on our caregivers whenever they need time to rest, work, run errands, and even go on vacation.
What Seniors Can Do about Reduced Immune Function
There are several things seniors can do to boost their immune system functioning, including getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and eating a nutrient-rich diet. However, seniors are typically more at risk for infections and diseases. Therefore, it’s essential that they get all recommended vaccinations on schedule and avoid exposure to people who are ill. Try to always encourage your loved one to wash his or her hands frequently and to stop smoking, because it worsens immune responses.
Seniors are more vulnerable to illness because their immune systems don’t function as efficiently as they used to. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of at-home care Oakville, ON, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. If you need professional home care for your loved one, our Care Managers are just a phone call away. Reach out to Home Care Assistance today at (905) 592-0085.