It is extremely worrying when someone with dementia develops pneumonia.
Pneumonia is more common among elderly people and affects those with weakened immune systems, such as those who are living with dementia.
A study of people living with dementia showed that as many as 40 per cent developed pneumonia over the 18-month study period.
There are two different types of pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is more common during the colder months, and can be caused by the same viruses that cause colds and flu.
Bacterial pneumonia is the more common, and serious, type of pneumonia – though it can usually be treated with antibiotics.
People living in nursing homes are at greater risk of contracting bacterial pneumonia. Worryingly, ‘hospital acquired’ pneumonia is more likely to be resistant to antibiotic treatment.
Spending too much time lying in bed can make you more likely to develop pneumonia because it’s more difficult to cough and clear your lungs when you are lying down.
A type of pneumonia known as aspiration pneumonia is caused when food or liquid is inhaled and goes down the windpipe rather than the food pipe.
People with dementia often experience dysphagia – or problems with swallowing, and this can make it more likely they will breathe in food and drink and contract pneumonia.
Sadly, aspiration pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death amongst people living with dementia.
When diagnosing pneumonia, doctors will listen for crackling, rattling or rumbling sounds in the chest. X-rays, blood tests and sputum tests can identify the bacteria or virus causing the infection. With the correct treatment, pneumonia lasts for around a week.