The average life expectancy in the US is now 79 years according to data collected by the World Bank.
Technological advances in healthcare and medicine have made this possible
This is a great thing!
And it also means that as a caregiver, you will have to help your elderly loved one manage one or multiple chronic health conditions which are notorious for showing up during the senior years.
In this post, I have compiled 6 of the most common senior healthcare problems and have included a brief overview of what you can do to help your elderly loved one overcome each one.
Although arthritis can develop long before senior adulthood, it is more common in the elderly.
Arthritis is a painful joint disease. It happens when the cartilage between bones wear down and so bones rub against one another. Cartilage is a slick, cushion-like substance between your bones which among other things helps with the smooth movement or your joints. Once it wears down, movement is no longer as smooth.
Constant rubbing of bones together causes the pain, stiffness and swelling most arthritis sufferers experience.
What you can do as a caregiver
Arthritis can become disabling.
It is possible the in the middle to advanced stages of disease, your elderly loved one will find it difficult to move.
As a caregiver, your role in this situation is to provide assistance with mobility.
It is important to also reduce hazards in the home that can easily cause falls.
Assistance with daily activities like bathing and eating might become necessary.
Like arthritis, heart disease can happen to anyone at any age.
But the risk for it does increase with age.
As a caregiver, your role in helping your elderly loved one with heart disease is going to center around lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes account for reducing the risk for heart disease by a large percentage.
In this study published by The Lancet, researchers found that lifestyle changes were more effective at reducing the occurrence of heart disease than lipid-lowering drugs (heart medications) were.
These lifestyle changes include:
- Regular exercise
- Eating a balanced diet with an emphasis on lean meats and vegetables
- Smoking cessation
- Stress management
Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone.”
When you study the bone of an osteoporosis patient under a microscope, it is significantly more porous than the bone of a healthy individual.
This happens because the mechanism that creates more bone tissue in a person’s body becomes dysfunctional.
The bones become dense and weak and are easily broken.
Thus, for elderly loved ones who have osteoporosis, your main concern as a caregiver is preventing broken bones.
You can achieve this goal by:
- Discouraging activities that put your loved one at risk to break bones
- Designing or re-designing the home to reduce the incidence of falls at home
- Removing objects in walk-ways that could lead to falls etc
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that results from the deposition of proteins known as amyloids in the brain.
This leads to memory loss and severe and sometimes disabling dementia.
We have talked extensively about how you can help your loved one with Alzheimer’s/dementia in this blog post.
I’ll provide a brief overview here:
- Engage your loved ones in their preferred mode of communication
- Your elderly loved one is likely to easily forget simple instructions, their name or who you even are. Be patient with them when this happens. Remember that they are not crazy. They simply are no longer themselves.
- Engage them in activities that excite them.
- Play music they enjoy.
- People with Alzheimer’s and dementia may even forget how to perform daily functions like bathing and dressing up. They will need a lot of help here.
Diabetes happens when the cells in our bodies are no longer able to use the sugar we derive from eating food.
Insulin is chemical in our bodies that allows sugar from food to be absorbed by the cells from our blood in our body.
When it stops functioning, diabetes results and so there is an increased amount of sugar in the blood- this is why some people call diabetes “sugar diabetes”.
What you can do to help
- Monitor blood sugar levels using a glucometer. Glucometers are easily available at your local pharmacy. Health insurance may cover the cost for it in some instances.
- Administer insulin when it is needed.
- Help your elderly loved one keep up with their doctor’s appointments.
- Wounds heal slower in people with diabetes. If they are ignored, the wound could develop into a serious condition that requires amputation. Make sure you report any cuts and wounds to a doctor immediately so proper care can be taken of the wound.
- Watch your loved one for signs of both high and low sugar levels.
Depression is common in seniors because of the isolation elderly people feel as friends and family pass away.
Seniors also tend to think they are no longer relevant to society because of their age.
As a caregiver, you can help by:
- Encouraging them to talk to a mental health professional.
- Urging them to get involved in activities in your local community that allows them to use the skills and expertise they have gathered over the years.
- Encouraging them to pick up a hobby.
- Involving them and welcoming them to social events so they can feel included.
I know that getting over depression is a complicated process for many people.
Doing the things above in addition to seeking psychiatric treatment will help your elderly loved one overcome depression.
As we all live longer, senior healthcare problems will arise.
As a caregiver, you can help your elderly loved one overcome these problems by applying the tips I shared in this post.
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