Most of us understand the definition of the word frail, and often we find ourselves using it to describe older adults we might see shuffling slowly, using a cane or walker, or suffering from vision and hearing impairments.
This March happens to be the second anniversary of when COVID-19 was officially declared to be a pandemic. The amount of huge, impactful changes to our daily lives and society as a whole have been impossible to miss, and one of the consequences of it all has been a drastically increased rate of people reporting sleep problems, especially for those of us in the senior citizen demographic. While there are myriad reasons one may be suffering from a lack of quality, restful sleep, here are some possible culprits.
Aging can sometimes be a lot to deal with, and even the most independent seniors don’t truly do it one hundred percent alone. Every task, no matter how small it may seem, when taken together as a whole can become overwhelming and leave you feeling exhausted.
The most common sleep disorder at any age of life is insomnia. And while it affects people of all ages, nearly half of all adults over the age of 60 have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. And while you might think that poor sleep is merely just an annoyance, something that can be easily remedied and countered with an occasional nap, over the counter sleep aid, or sleeping in late in the morning, the truth is that untreated insomnia can create a significant sleep debt in someone’s life, and can take a serious toll on a senior’s mental and physical health.
Ischemic strokes occur when an artery supplying the brain with blood becomes blocked, which naturally decreases or even completely stops blood flow, which causes a brain infarction. Approximately 80 percent of all strokes are of this type. As clotting problems become more frequent with age, it is of particular concern for those of us caring for seniors, or perhaps aging into that demographic ourselves.
For older adults, infectious diseases account for one third of all deaths in people over the age of 65. It is for this reason that infection prevention and early detection are crucial for seniors, to reduce that risk and stay as healthy as possible. Due to the common physical changes brought about by the aging process, as well as the unique concerns of senior lifestyles, there are several infections that are most commonly seen amongst seniors.
Chronic pain is not a normal part of aging and can disrupt your daily activities and damage your quality of life. If you suffer chronic pain, knowing strategies to reduce your discomfort can allow you to cope with pain and keep it from being too detrimental to your life.
For many older adults who grew up in a world where the internet was something that only the most forward thinking science fiction could have conceived of, it can be hard to learn to navigate it and use it the way that the younger generations who have never been without it seem to do effortlessly. A study from the UK in 2021, however, showed that older retired adults who use the internet score much higher on cognitive tests than those who do not. The protective effect was most dramatically effective amongst retired women, but the men who used the internet similarly scored higher on tests of memory, attention, spatial abilities, and problem solving.
No man is an island, is how the saying goes, and we humans as a species evolved with a strong need and reliance upon social contact. According to neurologists, the area of our brain that is responsible for communicating and interacting with other people is very large and well-developed. When we spend too much time alone, our mood and mental health can suffer greatly. This is of particular interest to older adults, who, for a variety of reasons, may find themselves having difficulty maintaining social bonds and experiencing regular personal interactions. While it can be challenging to go out of our way to maintain existing and forge new social connections, it is as critical for our overall health as regular visits with a physician.
Constipation is something that almost everyone experiences at some point in their life. While it can sometimes be a cause of embarrassment or frustration, usually it’s nothing serious. Older adults are more likely than younger people to become constipated, and because of the sensitivity of the subject, learning how to manage and overcome it is sometimes unknown.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a challenge for everyone, but when managing a life with diabetes it’s even more important to stay on top of health changes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death, and it can also lead to permanent disabilities and drastic negative effects on quality of life.
Pre-diabetes is, as the name suggests, the early stage leading up to the full blown disease of diabetes. To be pre-diabetic, it means you have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to qualify as diabetes. Glucose is a form of sugar that our bodies utilize to make energy. Too much glucose in your blood can, over time, damage your body. Pre-diabetes is also known as impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance.
Bronchitis is the name for a condition where the bronchial tubes, which are the tubes that carry air to your lungs, become inflamed and produce mucus. One of the primary symptoms of bronchitis is a cough that produces mucus. Other symptoms can also include wheezing, a whistling or squeaking sound when breathing, chest pain or discomfort, a low fever, and shortness of breath. Bronchitis comes in two main forms. Acute, which is short term, and chronic, which is ongoing. Both types cause your airways to constrict and cause coughing, both of which make it difficult to breathe and get adequate oxygen.
Anemia, defined simply, is when the number of red cells in someone’s blood, or the amount of hemoglobin in their red cells, is lower than it should be. It can occur for a number of reasons, such as loss of blood, insufficient or faulty production of red blood cells, or the loss and destruction of red cells. The condition is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test.
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, costing the lives of over half a million Americans each year. Coronary artery disease is a condition where plaque builds up in the coronary arteries that are responsible for supplying your heart muscle with oxygenated blood. Research has suggested the disease begins with certain factors damaging the inner layers of your coronary arteries.
No matter what age you are, the health of your mouth is a critical piece of your overall health. With a healthy mouth, you will have no problem eating the foods that you love and need for proper nutrition. You’ll also be unafraid to smile, talk, and laugh, helping you get the social interaction you need for your mental health and mood, and maintain a good sense of self esteem. If you neglect your teeth, eventually they’ll go away, so proper care and regular dentist visits are essential for keeping them for your lifetime. Many people have the perception that teeth are the same as bones, but this is inaccurate. Your teeth have a hard outer coating covering them called enamel. Each day, a thin film of bacteria that is called “plaque” builds up on teeth. Over time, if left unattended, this bacteria can eat holes in the enamel, which are known as cavities. Brushing and flossing regularly will remove this film, preventing tooth decay. Once a cavity happens, however, it can’t be reversed and a dentist has to fix it.
Of the many guidelines for living a healthy life, we’re commonly told it’s important to eat well, get exercise, and receive plenty of restful sleep. But one thing we’re rarely told is that frequent laughter is just as vital to living a healthy life. More than just a way to feel better instantly and connect with friends, laughter may actually help you to become healthier.
One of the most commonly cited issues for older adults is loneliness. Children grow up and move out of the home or to different cities, their friends and other loved ones either move or pass away, and it becomes more difficult to leave the house and participate in activities. For these reasons, pet ownership is a source of comfort and companionship that benefits seniors in countless ways.
Our sense of taste helps us savor and truly enjoy the food we’re eating. Many seniors suffer from a reduced appetite in their later years, and one of the causes of this is reduced sense of taste. While it may seem like a minor problem, the lack of desire to eat that comes with a diminished sense of taste can lead to dangerous weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, frailty, poor quality of life, and a needlessly reduced life span.
One of the biggest dangers to seniors living on their own is the risk of injury from falling down. Falls are the single largest preventable cause of hospitalizations in seniors, and the lingering effects of the damage caused by a fall can curtail a senior’s quality of life, or even their longevity. There are many things older adults can do to prevent falls, and one is making sure to exercise regularly. Exercise has many protective effects against falls, such as strengthening the bones, the muscles supporting them, and improving reaction time. Below are several exercises which, when done regularly, can help improve the sense of balance, which will help to sense and avoid imminent falls.
With winter upon us, and perhaps another variant of the Coronavirus causing going out in the world unnecessarily to be a risk, we must look to the four walls around us to work as our gymnasium.
Falls are the leading cause of injury, hospitalization, and death in the elderly. According to the CDC, one out of every four older Americans suffers a fall every year. And with seniors being more likely to fall, they are unfortunately more susceptible to sustaining lasting injuries from said falls. Almost a quarter of yearly falls result in an injury, such as a broken hip or a head trauma, meaning that nearly one in sixteen adults over the age of 65 will be injured in a fall each year. Understanding the reasons for a fall can help loved ones and caregivers prepare for and prevent them.
When the year changes over to the new one, it’s a good time to reflect on the year we left behind, and look forward to the year to come. New Year’s resolutions are a popular part of that process. Start by looking back over the previous year, considering the person we were and the things we did and the habits we kept. Then consider what of those things we might like to put an end to, and what we might like to carry over into the new year. It’s also a great opportunity to conceptualize the person we might like to become, and what habits and activities we’d like to develop.
Shingles is a disease that causes a painful, blistering skin rash. It affects the nervous system, and is curiously caused by varicella-zoster, the same disease that causes chicken pox. While we recover from the chicken pox, the virus does not actually leave the body, and in fact sits dormant within us, lingering in some nerve cells. It is not known or understood why the virus can reactivate later in life, causing shingles.
In the United States, at least 10 million people have osteoporosis, and millions more have osteopenia, meaning low bone mass, putting them at increased risk of osteoporosis, as well as fractures, breaks, and more. But who is at risk of osteoporosis?