Common Ailments in the Aging
The are several illnesses that commonly occur with aging. Many depend on the person’s condition and self sufficiency, that is, how well they are able to take care of themselves. What may seem like a controllable illness can present much worse in the elderly.
Normally as we age we have a slower and less effective immune system. In some cases, these illnesses can become life threatening.
Here’s the list:
- Urinary tract infections
- diarhea or intestinal infections
- fungus on feet
You can probably see why. Part of the reason is that they are generally more sedentary. Often that leads to a wheel chair. With each step comes less agility and ability to maintain their bodies.
For example, it’s not uncommon for seniors to want to shower less. Whether it’s because of the energy required or the chill they more often feel, many will postpone a shower or bath. Add to that aging often brings some incontinency, usually leaking at least at some point. A lack of cleanliness can certainly increase risk of germs and bacteria.
Once an elderly person becomes incontinent, urinary tract infections (UTI’s) can be common. What may seem like an easily treated infection in a healthy person can bring on a serious illness in a senior. Many are fairly weak to begin with. As a result any infection can bring on further, sometimes dramatic, deterioration.
The illness may not show clear physical signs, but an infection may display in a wide range of reactions. Excessive sleeping, confusion, hallucinations, aggression, slurred language, and even death like symptoms may occur. Once on medication those symptoms will often stop quickly.
The older we get the longer it can take to recover from illness and injury. If you don’t see a good response, you may want to recheck once the medication is gone too. Some don’t go away with only one dosage. A different form of antibiotics may be required instead.
The flu strains seem to grow stronger and stronger, often overcoming the flu shot designed to stop it. Any illness like this takes a lot out of an aging person.
Watching for symptoms
If the aging person has Alzheimer’s diseaase or dementia, it can be more difficult since they are often unable to tell you that they hurt at all, let alone where they hurt. That means a caregiver might not catch an illness as soon as in one without dementia.
Pneumonia becomes a higher risk, again partly because of time spent lying down and being sedentary, partly because the immune system isn’t as strong. For some it is difficult even to cough, to get the stuff out of the lungs.
One other thing I’ve seen lately that can cause fast deterioration in a person is a broken bone. Broken hips are what I’ve seen the most. Several in the last few months. You can do everything you can to prevent falls, but it takes less than a minute for a senior to get up or misstep and fall. A broken hip requires hospitalization. At times that is a turning point for Alzheimer’s patients. Actually that can be a turning point for any elderly person, with or without dementia.