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Home Care Union NJ: Signs Someone with Dementia Has an Ear Infection

Home Care Union NJ: Signs Someone with Dementia Has an Ear Infection

Ear infections may not be as common in older adults as they are in children, but they do occasionally occur. They are caused by bacteria or a virus that infects the middle ear. Many times, ear infections happen because of other illnesses, like a cold, that causes the eustachian tubes to swell. The eustachian tubes are narrow tubes that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. Congestion caused by a cold or other illness can cause the tubes to become blocked, which makes fluid build up in the middle ear. Bacteria or a virus in the fluid is what causes an infection.

In adults, an ear infection causes symptoms such as:

  • Inflammation.
  • Pain, including tenderness when touched.
  • Changes in hearing.
  • Fever.
  • Headaches.
  • Swelling of the ear.

While older adults unaffected by cognitive problems may be able to easily communicate these symptoms to a family caregiver or doctor, it’s not as easy when the senior has dementia. Older adults with dementia may not be able to communicate what they are feeling, so they cannot tell you when their ears hurt. Instead, you’ll have to watch for other signs. Below are tome indicators that a senior with dementia may have an ear infection.


You may notice that the older adult feels warm to the touch. They may also have dry lips or dry skin. They might shiver, too. To be certain, use a thermometer to check their temperature.

More Confused Than Usual

Increased confusion is an indicator of an infection. If your loved one seems even more confused about where they are, time, and other people, it may be a good idea to take them to the doctor. The increased confusion will be noticeable and sudden.

Facial Expressions and Actions

Be alert to the look on your loved one’s face. An older adult in pain may grimace or make other faces that suggest they are in pain. They might also shy away from your touch, cry, or be more uncooperative than usual.


An infection can make the senior lose balance and fall more easily. If your older family member falls, look for other signs of infection or have them examined by a doctor.

Senior care providers can help family caregivers to watch for signs of infection. If the older adult has an infection, a senior care provider can remind them to take the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Senior care providers can also help to keep the older adult more comfortable by preparing a warm compress to hold to the affected ear or offer a pleasant distraction from their pain.

If you or an aging loved-one are considering caregivers, please call the caring professionals at Medvale Home Care today. Serving you in: Union, Essex, Middlesex, Hudson, Bergen and Morris. Call today: (908) 688-1025