As we age, we become more likely to develop different kinds of health problems. These are called geriatric syndromes. They affect health and quality of life, and although they happen more in people who are older.
Getting older can seem daunting- greying hair, wrinkles, forgetting where you parked the car. All jokes aside, aging can bring about unique health issues. It is really important to understand the challenges faced by people as they age, and recognize that there are preventive measures that can place yourself (or a loved one) on a path to healthy aging.
According to the World Health Organization, over 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. A common mental disorder among seniors is depression, occurring in seven percent of the elderly population. Unfortunately, this mental disorder is often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Promoting a lifestyle of healthy living such as betterment of living conditions and social support from family, friends or support groups can help treat depression.
Malnutrition in older adults can lead to various health concerns, including:
1. A weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
2. Poor wound healing
3. Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures.
Committing to small changes in diet, such as increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreasing consumption of saturated fat and salt, can help nutrition issues in the elderly.
Loss of Bladder Control
Urinary incontinence can have any number of causes, some of them more serious than others. If an elderly person begins to experience issues holding their urine until they can get to a toilet, it could be indicative of a more serious problem. Treatment of the underlying problem will frequently resolve the urinary incontinence issue. This problem is actually highly treatable and can usually be improved when it is treated.
This condition is extremely common and is found in many people over the age of 65. A person with osteoporosis will lose bone density and strength gradually until the bones become brittle, weak, and susceptible to breaking easily. Proper nutrition including calcium and vitamin D along with regular exercise is key in lessening the impact of this condition.
Sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing, are extremely common for people over the age of 70. Nowadays, one out of six older adults have a visual impairment and one out of four has a hearing impairment. Luckily, both of these issues are easily treatable by aids such as glasses or hearing aids. New technologies are enhancing assessment of hearing loss and wear ability of hearing aids.
Chronic health conditions:
According to the National Council on Aging, about 92 percent of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77 percent have at least two. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are among the most common and costly chronic health conditions causing two-thirds of deaths each year.
Maintaining a healthy diet and keeping an exercise routine can help one to manage or prevent chronic diseases.
Polypharmacy means taking multiple medications. It’s a problem mainly because as people get older, they become especially at risk for harm from medication side-effects or interactions. When people have been prescribed many medications, it’s harder for them to take them correctly. This can lead to worsening of a chronic condition, or even misguided medical care as doctors may fail to realize that a patient hasn’t been able to take all medication as directed.
Memory concerns often cause anxiety for older adults and families. They may or may not reflect substantial decreases in thinking abilities. Evaluation helps by providing a objective measure of whether a person is cognitively impaired, and to what extent. Even more importantly, evaluation can uncover treatable causes of decreased brain function, such as medication side-effects, thyroid problems, and a variety of other problems which are common in older adults.
Isolation and loneliness
Both isolation (not having a lot of social contact with others) and loneliness (the feeling of lacking social connection) have been linked to declines in physical health. Loneliness and isolation have also been linked to decreased immune function and greater risk of depression. Studies have found that certain psychotherapies including mindfulness can help reduce feelings of loneliness and even inflammation in the body.
Old age brings with it a unique set of challenges and potential health hazards. By keeping an eye out for these common problems, you can help to ensure that the elderly person in your life lives a full and happy life with a minimal amount of interruptions or inconveniences.