In medicine, more than 65 years old is defined as elderly. How many of you are living with a loved one that are considered elderly? I am by no means an expert, but I have had the experience of working with the elderly throughout my career. Some people suggest that we should treat them like babies as they need a lot of cajoling and there is some truth in it…
My thoughts and indeed the purpose of this series of articles is to help give insight on how to manage and deal with the elderly.
What do you think about when you see the word Aging?
Superficially, it involves:
- White hair
- Flabby skin
- Canes/walking aids
- Illness, disease & weakness
Physiologically, it involves:
- Musculoskeletal – decrease in lean body mass, muscle mass, total body water and mobility
- Hearing – loss of high-frequency hearing
- Endocrine – increase in bone mineral loss, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance and incidence of thyroid abnormalities
- Visual – increase time for reflexes (constriction & dilation) and decrease time in lens flexibility
- Cardiovascular – increase amount of collagen and fat in cardiac muscle, thickening and rigidity of valves and decrease in coronary artery blood flow
- Immune – decrease in T-cell and B-cell function
- Respiratory – decrease in elasticity of lungs, vital capacity and increase in residual volumn
- Nervous – decrease in number of neurons, protein synthesis, senile plaques, lower rate of conduction in peripheral nerves and slower reflexes
- Digestive – decrease in gastric acid secretion, emptying of esophagus and stomach and lower number of taste buds
How are your loved ones affected?
- Vision – They may have poor vision and even blindness as they age. Cataracts and glaucoma is common and normally does not require any intervention. When their vision is compromised, they tend to lose balance and fall.
- Hearing – Hearing loss is common and some may require hearing aids. Some might not like the idea of having a hearing aid because it’s visible, but hearing aids are getting more compact.
- Taste – Food will never taste the same again and not being able to taste food can be quite frustrating.
- Movement – The inability to move is restricting. They lose their independence to move around and that will limit their social life.
- Cognition – Logic, reasoning and decision making can be affected.
- Emotion – They can be sensitive at the things you tell them. Emotions go out of control; they become angry, sad or reserve unreasonably.
- Self-esteem – They use to be independent and the need to ask for help or be cared for will lower their self-esteem especially if they require help in grooming.
Stay tuned for my Aging Together Series 2 on my next blog.