Getting older comes with a lot of health problems. The only way to get around these issues is to know their symptoms and take the necessary precautionary measures. In this article, you will learn the top 10 illnesses that affect senior citizens. As a concerned family member, the list of conditions below can help you improve your loved one’s life and even prepare for the worst-case scenarios.
The guide will discuss each health condition as well as the symptoms that come with every illness so you know when to book an appointment with a physician.
Around 350 million people are affected by arthritis all around the world. It is a debilitating illness that negatively affects a person’s ability to walk and perform a wide range of household chores. According to CDC, more than 50 percent of old people are affected by this illness.
Take note that arthritis comes in many forms. Here are some of the most common types:
- Osteoarthritis – This often results from the wear and tear of joints due to injuries and obesity. People who have this type of arthritis often have difficulty in gripping objects, bending their backs and climbing stairs.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – It is an autoimmune illness that causes the joints inflammation. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage. This is commonly denoted by pain and stiffness around the ankles, hands, elbows and wrists.
- Psoriatic arthritis – Individuals affected by this type of arthritis often observe inflamed skin near the elbows, navel, anus and genitals.
2. Heart Disease
Millions of old people from across the globe are diagnosed with various types of heart diseases. Some of the common heart ailments include coronary artery disease, hypertension, and heart failure. As the body ages, the overall condition of the heart muscles also slowly deteriorates. The blood vessels also become less flexible, which affects the normal flow of blood.
Some of the key symptoms you need to look out for includes:
- Tightening of the chest
- Breathing difficulty
- Sudden dizziness
If you notice any of the symptoms above, you should consider consulting a physician as soon as possible. It’s best to assess the condition early on. Failure to do may result in fatal health issues such as heart attack or stroke.
3. Respiratory Disease
Another organ that needs immediate attention is the lungs. It’s quite a fragile organ that deals with crucial body processes. Without a functional pair of lungs, it would be virtually impossible to live.
Because of ageing and prolonged exposure to pollutants or hazardous substances at work, some old people develop respiratory diseases such as black lungs, pneumonia, tuberculosis, asthma and COPD.
If you suspect that your loved one has symptoms of respiratory ailments, it’s crucial to have him/checked quickly. Acting quickly allows your loved ones to get a positive prognosis.
Cancer affects all ages, but studies reveal that it’s more prevalent among older individuals. This is due to the fact that the quality of the cells changes significantly when a person ages. Cancer can develop in many parts of the body such as the skin, colon, lungs, prostate, and breast.
Some of the common signs to look out for includes:
- Extreme fatigue
- Colour changes on the skin
- Fever and body pain
- Abnormal bleeding
- Excessive sweating during the night
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Weight loss due to unknown reasons
Because cancer cells can metastasize quickly, consulting with an oncologist right away should be your top priority.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a highly prevalent cognitive malfunction. It’s so common that ten percent of folks age 65 and above are diagnosed with it. This degenerative disease results in the disruption of nerve transmission.
People diagnosed with AD show progressive decline in behavioural, thinking and socializing skills, which in effect prevents a person to live independently.
Some of the early signs and symptoms of AD include memory loss, confusion, difficulty in solving problems and trouble understanding spatial relationships and visual images.
Majority of seniors are diagnosed with osteoporosis because bone density tends to decrease as a person ages. Without calcium supplement intake, your loved one’s bones will become increasingly porous. Most of the time, osteoporosis results in debilitating injuries and decreased strength and agility.
To keep the bones healthy, physicians recommend doing the following:
- Constantly engage in weight-bearing exercises
- Maintain regular intake of Vitamin D and Calcium
- Eat nutritious meals every day
- Minimize the intake of alcohol and smoking
7. Physical injury
Older people are more at risk of getting injured after falling or slipping. Most of the time, they end up with a leg fracture or pelvic bone injury. To prevent injuries from happening, you should work on your home’s safety. Consider installing grab bars or non-skid mats especially on slippery surfaces in the bathroom or kitchen.
In case your loved one got badly injured, they can still enjoy living a quality life by using a piece of mobility equipment like electric scooters or wheelchairs. With a reliable piece of equipment, they can tag along when you travel or when you need to go to the groceries. They can use mobility equipment until they are able to move with ease again.
The body tends to metabolize sugar molecules such as glucose at a much slower rate when a person ages. Because of this, a large fraction of old people is at risk of developing diabetes.
To minimize the risk of your parents or grandparents, you should encourage him/her to do the following:
- Decrease consumption of sugar plus refined carbohydrates
- Engage in an active lifestyle
- Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day
- Aim to maintain a healthy weight
- Say goodbye to smoking once and for all
- Be mindful of meal portion sizes
Pneumonia tends to affect senior folks in a more radical way as compared to individuals belonging to other age groups.
This is primarily because of the decreased efficiency of the lungs. Most of the time, seniors suffer from the severe form of pneumonia due to excessive lung fluid buildup.
If your senior family member complains about chest pain, fever at night, breathing difficulty, fatigue, shaking chills, and sudden body temperature drop, you should schedule a trip to the hospital.
Depression can be triggered by a lot of reasons which can include diseases and decreased mobility due to injury. Sometimes, it’s hard to detect depression among old people because symptoms such as sadness, loss of interest, irritability, and mood fluctuations are often dismissed as normal parts of getting old.
The key to detecting depression lies in knowing the normal behaviour of your senior family member. Pay close attention to the small changes and constantly reach out to them. Keep them reassured by offering them your emotional support.
Final words of advice
Take note that the conditions listed above are just the most common examples. Your loved one may suffer from other issues such as cataracts and dementia.
Knowing the potential diseases and illnesses that may affect your senior loved ones is a great step for you to prepare for the worst. We hope that you keep these health conditions in mind to help you take care of your elderly family members better and to ensure that they enjoy a happy and comfortable life.
By Jill Crawford
who writes articles about dealing with physical disability and taking care of senior loved ones. She’s been writing for Mobiquip, a company the offers the most extensive selection of mobility equipment for many years. She aims to help as many people as she can through her write-ups.