Caregiver Insights: Senior In Home Care

7 Signs of Tuberculosis: Why it Matters in Senior Home Care

By Michael Connors LVN on Mar 27, 2016 3:30:00 PM

7 Signs of Tuberculosis: Why it Matters in Senior Home Care

According to the World Health Organization, Tuberculosis has become a “Global Emergency.” Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this epidemic, which is why in California, the newly formed Home Care Services Bureau requires all Home Care Aides to be registered and tested for TB.

This disease, once thought to be Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease spread from person to person. TB primarily affects a person’s lungs, but it can also have an impact on the function of the brain,Tuberculosis.jpg kidneys and or the spine itself. Untreated TB usually results in the patient’s death.

The primary symptoms of TB include but are not limited to:

  • Feeling of sickness or weakness
  • Weight Loss
  • Fever above 101 degrees
  • Night sweats
  • Coughing
  • Chest Pain
  • Later symptoms include coughing up blood

When a person infected with TB in their lungs coughs, sneezes, speaks or even sings they have a chance to pass on the infection to persons, even hours after they did so depending on the environment. A person who breathes in the air from an infected person may become infected themselves. From this they can develop one of 2 types of TB infection:

Latent TB infection.

A person with a latent TB infection has the TB germs present in their body, but they may not be sick or present symptoms of actual infection because the TB itself is not active at the time. Those with a Latent TB infection cannot spread the infection, they may develop TB disease in the future. They are often prescribed treatment to prevent them from developing the actual TB disease.

Active TB infection.

Persons with active TB disease are sick from the TB germs and the TB is multiplying and destroying tissue in their body. They usually have marked signs and symptoms of TB disease, they can spread the disease to others and are prescribed drugs that can treat TB disease.


TB can be treated by taking a particular mix of prescribed medications for a period ranging between 6-12 months depending on the severity of the infection. It is of chief importance that a person finishes the treatment regimen completely.

Persons who stop or do not complete the treatment may have TB germs left inside their bodies that could develop a resistance to the medications and or have another episode of active infection develop.

If you have been around a person who has or develops TB then you should see your medical professional as soon as possible for testing.

What is a Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG):

The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a vaccine developed to decrease the likelihood of a person developing TB.

The BCG is used in many countries and by the United States Military if person is to be deployed to a country of high TB incidence.

The BCG does not completely prevent an exposed person from developing TB, and it may also give a false positive tuberculin skin test reading.

A person who has received a BCG may receive a skin test or TB blood test, but if your healthcare professional is made aware that you have received a BCG they more than likely will just order a Chest X-ray to verify that you are asymptomatic of TB.


There are 2 primary tests used to help detect a TB infection: a skin test done with an injection of tuberculin test agent into your skin sub dermally in the lower part of either of your arms (Mantoux Skin Test), or a Special TB blood test where a blood draw is done and Tuberculosis_Testing_web.jpgthe blood is sent to a laboratory for microscopic analysis.

A person receiving a TB skin test must have it read by a healthcare professional within 48-72 hours of the actual injection to determine if there is a reaction (Induration) that has resulted, which would indicate a possible infection and require further testing i.e. - Chest x-ray, blood test. The Blood test measures how the patient’s immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB.

What does a Positive test for TB mean?

A positive test for TB only indicates a person has been infected with the TB germs, it cannot indicate if it has developed into an active disease process or if it is a latent infection. Secondary tests like a Chest X-ray and a sample of sputum (oral fluids coughed up from the lungs), are needed to verify if a person has TB.

Why treat latent TB infections:

Your Medical professional may want you to take prescribed medications to kill the TB germs present in your body despite not having developed into an active infection. This is done as a precaution to prevent the conversion at a future time to Active TB.

The decision to treat your latent infection is based on your chances to develop an active infection, some people are more likely than others to develop it. Persons with HIV, those recently exposed to a person with active TB disease, and persons with certain medical conditions or compromised immune systems are of particular concern to be tested and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Healthcare professional, those working with patients, the underserved populations, and homeless usually have a set schedule for TB testing especially upon hiring or per their industry protocols.


If you yourself have had contact with a person suspected or verified to have TB, it is highly recommended to have yourself tested. With TB exposure, speed of detection and treatment have a direct impact on the outcome and or survival of the actual infection.

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