Aging results in a wide range of health-related problems for the elderly and raises several concerns that require considerable care. Body functions begin to deteriorate with increasing age. Therefore, it is essential to be vigilant and understand the diseases and issues that are most prevalent among the elderly. Recognizing a health-related problem is necessary for timely intervention and creating a treatment plan. Additionally, awareness regarding issues that may arise among people of higher age groups can also help its prevention.
Professionals or caretakers can be more prepared to handle adverse situations, which would help in improving outcomes. In particular, nursing homes designed for the elderly need a substantial support system informed by high ethical standards. Nurses and caretakers with a reasonable degree of empathy and professional commitment can ensure the individuals remain comfortable and well. Neglect by caretakers can adversely affect the health of senior individuals.
Neglect is one of the six common types of abuse that a senior citizen above 60 might have to face. Their basic needs like food, water, medicines, clothing, hygiene and shelter are ignored. The other forms of abuse are physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual and financial abuse; each form of abuse scars and damages the dependent aged person in its own way. Therefore, reporting abuse in nursing homes is crucial to prevent recurrence and protect others under the same care.
Some of the significant health concerns that senior citizens commonly face are below.
The constant wear and tear the body is subjected to throughout life progressively weakens it. The muscles lose strength, and the sense of balance is lost, which often results in a fall. A weak musculoskeletal structure makes the aged more prone to a fall, which results in injuries, and the fear of a subsequent fall takes root in mind. A fall may cause injuries that may be minor or very significant, such as a fracture or a head injury. Nurses and care practitioners need to assess the risk of a fall in the elderly and be more vigilant of individuals at high risk. Signs of frequent falls can be evidence of neglect.
To minimize fall-related injuries, nurses or care providers must ensure that suitable measures are taken to enhance patient safety. You can create a safe environment by removing the clutter and readjusting furniture, clearing the way and widening walkways. Installing bars in the bathroom or other house areas can give patients support and serve as a walking aid. Similarly, placing non-slip mats outside toilets or wet areas can reduce the risk of a fall. Caregivers must formulate a comprehensive rehabilitation program for the elderly who have a higher risk of falls to prevent a fall-related injury.
- Mental Health
Mental health issues are a common complaint among the elderly. According to the WHO, about 15% of the total adult population of age 60 and above suffer from a mental issue. Mental health issues usually stem from a lack of close personal relationships, loneliness, and disrupted emotional ties, which may have occurred due to the death of a loved one. The most frequently encountered mental health problems include isolation, anxiety, depression, dementia, and psychosis. In addition to these, sleep disturbances and behavioral changes are also common occurrences.
Though no medicine is available to cure most mental illnesses such as dementia, support can still be provided to the elderly and their families to improve their quality of life.
Care providers can help the elderly overcome social seclusion by creating supportive social connections and close interpersonal relationships. Seniors’ mental health can be supported by working with mental health professionals, organizations, families, and communities to devise a comprehensive mental health care plan. Older people should be motivated to participate in different community events, where a supportive social environment can immensely benefit their general mood. It is the responsibility of care providers to promptly recognize any mental disorder or mental health concern. Early detection will allow for the initiation of a timely psychosocial or medical treatment.
- Bone and joint-related disorders
Numerous musculoskeletal system disorders arise in old age. The diseases include osteoarthritis, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle weakness, and muscle pain. As you age, there is a progressive reduction of the muscle’s tolerance to exercise, and as a result, muscular weakness leads to fatigue. There is also a reduction in bone mass in old age, which causes bones to become brittle and prone to fractures.
To care for the elderly with bone-related complaints, caregivers need to recognize the limitations to their mobility, understand and evaluate. A plan which incorporates appropriate physical activity for each individual can overcome this limitation. However, you must be careful not to exert the elderly patient. When initiated early on, physical activity reduces the rate of bone demineralization and its subsequent deterioration. Providing the elderly with an adequate amount of sunlight and vitamin supplementations can help limit the decline of the musculoskeletal system. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can also benefit. Caregivers must devise a fall support plan to limit severe injuries for patients with poor joint health.
- Bladder control and constipation
One of the most common complaints encountered in the management of senior citizens is constipation and lack of bladder control resulting in urinary incontinence. The situation may arise due to age-related deterioration in the bladder and bowel functioning, which may occur due to a chronic health disease. Both conditions significantly impact the quality of life.
A balanced diet of high fiber, fruits, and vegetables can control constipation. Additionally, in severe cases, a primary care provider can consult a physician and initiate the use of over-the-counter drugs to reduce fecal incontinence. The elderly must be counseled regarding scheduled visits to the toilet, which would help prevent leakage or overflow. To tackle the issue of urinary incontinence, the caregivers should limit the drinks close to bedtime. Similarly, refraining from lifting heavy-weight objects can also control urinary incontinence.
Pain is a common symptom experienced by the elderly in multiple parts of the body. Continuous body pain may be associated with a lack of physical activity and depression. Sudden onset of excruciating pain can also signify a health-related severe condition, such as a malignancy or a ruptured vessel.
It is of utmost importance that primary care providers continually monitor and address pain-related issues promptly. Evaluation of its cause is necessary to treat the underlying condition. In some instances, pain can be controlled through psychotherapy, exercises, and physiotherapy. While in severe cases, medical attention may be necessary. Care providers must use over-the-counter pain medicines with caution, as they may be risky for the elderly when used excessively.
Old age is associated with many health-related issues, which can be managed effectively through primary care and vigilance. Developments in healthcare have improved people’s lifespans, and as a result, senior citizens make up a large segment of the population. Thus, understanding their challenges and taking appropriate preventive measures can help secure a path to healthy aging. The significant challenges faced by the elderly include limitations in mobility and social isolation, which contribute to deterioration in mental health. Loss of normal body function, such as the inability to control bowel and bladder movements, also contributed to significant anxiety and distress among the elderly population. Well-trained, empathetic, and kind nurses and caregivers can alleviate the challenges faced by the elderly with effective primary care, which can help improve the quality of life.