When it comes to health, at any age, a proactive approach is always the best one. If you are tasked with the care giving needs of someone you care about in their older years, you need to know how to approach some of the health concerns that plague older people. Quickly recognizing these conditions could mean the difference between successful treatment and a significantly reduced quality of life. Here are the top five health conditions your loved one may face.
1. Weight and Obesity
As you age, your risk of becoming overweight increases significantly. Not only does your metabolism slow down, but you also tend to become less active. Being overweight increases the risk of a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and a number of cancers. If you are caring for someone who is elderly, encourage them to remain as active as their health permits while also focusing on good nutrition to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
2. Mental Health Concerns
Dementia and depressions are two common mental health issues that plague the elderly. It’s important to know that dementia does not have to be part of the aging process. In fact, many elderly people are able to enjoy life free from dementia. This common mental health issue can be caused by a problem with medication, poor nutrition and underlying health conditions. If you notice dementia signs, talk to a mental health practitioner right away to get the help your loved one needs.
Depression is another common problem. Older adults who are facing the reality of people around them dying, younger family members moving on with life and the loneliness that comes from being a senior citizen can all lead to depression. To help a loved one with depression, first get medical help, then focus on adding social events to their life to ensure that they are getting enough interaction with others.
Around 30 percent of individuals age 65 and older have diabetes. This disease can cause no symptoms early on, which makes it hard to spot, yet it causes a myriad of related health problems. It can cause loss of hearing and vision, poor wound healing, a higher risk of infection and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Routine blood work can help rule out diabetes, but you must know what signs to watch for. Confusion, increased sleepiness, foot pain, weight loss, poorly healing injuries or depression can all be signs of diabetes.
4. Heart Disease
Did you know that approximately 90 percent of Americans will develop hypertension, or high blood pressure? That risk increases with age, and hypertension can cause strain on the heart and arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Unfortunately, hypertension causes no symptoms, and many people are not aware that they have it until a more serious condition occurs. To ensure your elderly loved one is not at risk, monitor blood pressure regularly, either at home or with the help of a doctor. Any number above 140/90 warrants a call to the doctor to determine if addition care is needed. Numbers above 180/110 indicate a medical emergency.
The American Cancer Society indicates that half of all men and one-third of all women in America will develop cancer during their lifetimes. The greatest risk factor for cancer is age, and older adults are at the highest risk. While some types of cancer are obvious, others grow slowly over time and may not be discovered until they are life-threatening. To avoid this scenario and improve the chances of an early diagnosis, which improves the chances of successful treatment, talk to your loved one’s doctor about screening and testing for various cancers.
As a caregiver, your loved one’s health is your number one priority. By learning how to notice these common problems, and taking measures to get care before they develop into something serious, you can provide your loved one with the best possible care.