As we age, we become more at risk for certain serious health conditions. This is because as we get older, our immune system ceases to work as well. It becomes slower to respond to a threat, and fewer immune cells reside in the body to bring about healing.
This increased risk for disease and serious injury is of serious concern to anyone with an aging loved one. Caregivers are often responsible for spotting the early signs of immunity changes, or other health changes, and knowing what to look out for is incredibly important. That being said, it can be difficult to decide which changes are normal and which require further attention.
Knowing what the most common conditions are and how to spot them, can make a dramatic difference in the level of care the patient receives. That initial care and treatment can then directly impact the patient’s overall outcome and quality of life.
With that in mind, let’s talk about five common conditions that caregivers must be aware of when they’re responsible for an older individual.
Dementia is a group of conditions characterized by the impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment. It is most common in people over the age of 65, but early-onset dementia does sometimes affect people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
Common symptoms of dementia include forgetfulness, limited social skills, and thinking abilities that are impaired enough to impair daily function. There is no cure for dementia, but having an official diagnosis can help with creating an accurate care plan.
2. Type 2 Diabetes
Over 300,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes are diagnosed in people over the age of 65 every year. It can result from a culmination of health issues or an unhealthy lifestyle. The risk for developing this disease also increases if other family members have it.
Common symptoms you can be on the watch for include:
- An increase in thirst.
- More frequent trips to the bathroom.
- An increase in appetite.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Slow-healing sores.
- Blurred vision that isn’t due to other eye issues.
If you notice these symptoms in an elderly patient they should be tested to determine if they have developed the disease. If left untreated, this disease can cause kidney damage, eye damage, heart disease, or a stroke.
If a patient is at risk but hasn’t yet developed the disease, there are activities they can do to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. These include working out, cutting out excess sugars, and following a low-carb diet.
Bedsores are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. Usually, these are the result of a patient being left in one position in a bed for too long of a time.
Bedsores can be difficult to treat and can lead to severe infections that sometimes result in death. In recent years, states like Illinois have seen an increase in lawsuits surrounding deaths from bedsores. This is part of a disturbing trend in nursing homes providing insufficient care.
If you have a loved one that recently passed away due to a bedsore-related illness, you could be eligible for financial compensation if you file a wrongful death suit. In addition to receiving money for any outstanding medical bills and your suffering, you can help ensure that this doesn’t happen to someone else.
Bedsores are easily prevented with proper care and attention, and caregivers or medical professionals that fail to provide that care should be held accountable.
4. Heart Disease
Heart disease is an umbrella term for a variety of heart conditions that include diseased vessels, structural problems, and blood clots. Over 647,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease every year and it’s responsible for 1 in 4 deaths, making it the leading cause of death in the country.
Symptoms of heart disease you should be aware of include a racing heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, and shortness of breath. If you suspect that someone you’re caring for has heart disease, schedule an appointment with their doctor. Labs and other tests can be run to confirm or deny the diagnosis.
5. Vision or Hearing Loss
People over age 65 make up 37% of all hearing-impaired individuals and 30% of all visually impaired individuals.
Signs of hearing impairment include difficulty understanding words, mumbled or shouted speech, and frequently asking others to speak more loudly or clearly.
Signs of visual impairment include complaining of hazy or blurred vision, the inability to read without difficulty, squinting, and constant eye rubbing.
Vision and hearing impairment can both be improved with the help of specialists, so schedule an appointment if you notice any of these signs in someone you’re caring for.
These five common conditions affect thousands of older people every year. If you’re a caregiver, you’re the first line of defense in noticing and seeking treatment for these conditions. Now that you know what to be on the watch for, you’re ready to practice aging awareness in your interactions.