As medical knowledge and technology advances people are living longer, healthier lives. That means there are more senior citizens than ever before, and the number continues to rise.
There are a number of common health problems that arise as your body ages. Senior citizens report the following among their most common illnesses: knee, back, and hip injury related to falls; cognitive impairment; vision impairment; hearing impairment; difficulty breathing; heart problems associated with hypertension, irregular heart beat (arrhythmia), or congestive heart failure; difficulty breathing, sleep disorders, and depression.
A quick overview of common ailments among senior citizens will help you better understand what to look for as you or loved ones age. This is a guide for informational purposes only. In order to keep the overview brief, commonly related illnesses are grouped together. For more information concerning any of these complaints, illnesses or diseases experienced by the elderly contact a licensed physician.
Overview of Common Senior Adult Illnesses
The CDC cites mental distress, poor oral health, poor nutrition, obesity, high cholesterol and hip fractures among the most common problems among the elderly. Most of these are underlying factors or related to the problems mentioned above that elderly most often complain about.
Most common ER visit for elderly due to falls
While this list is not exhaustive, these ailments appear to be the most prevalent among elderly living at home, in assisted care, and nursing home facilities. According to the US government most ER visits from the elderly, are associated with falls. Falls, which often result in broken bones because of low bone density. Most common are broken hips, although wrists, collar bones, legs, and other parts of the body can be easily broken by the elderly in a fall.
Poor oral health among senior citizens
Poor oral health among elderly may be due to their inability to care for their teeth, poor nutrition, and tooth decay caused by a number of factors, including medication. Many people do not understand that poor dental health is a contributor to heart disease. Build up of tarter and bacteria on the teeth and gums can lead to infection, which can enter the bloodstream. Senior adult oral health care should not be neglected.
Cognitive issues – a common problem among elderly with a number of possible causes
Often, as people age, mental clarity begins to diminish. This is a simple sign of aging and an indication that the nervous system is on the decline. One of the first signs of weakening cognition is forgetfulness. Additional cognitive problems faced by many senior citizens is fuzzy or clouded thinking, acting out, and poor decision making.
The causes of mental decline range from the natural aging process to familiar illnesses among the elderly like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Mental clarity can also be affected by life sustaining medications.
Decline in cognitive abilities, in other words the ability to think straight, can be particularly troubling as seniors begin to recognize this about themselves. Senior citizens should be encouraged and challenged to read, interact with others, and engage in hobbies that cause them to keep their mind busy.
Diminished eyesight and hearing may also be related to cognitive disorders, although frequently there are physical problems associated with sight and hearing.
Mental distress can also cause the onset of shingles, another common illness among senior adults. Anxiety is often the trigger that causes painful sores to erupt around the mid region or one half of the head.
Depression and sleep disorders in elderly often overlooked
Two additional elderly mental health problems often overlooked or blamed on age or medication are depression and sleep disorders. In many cases both depression and sleep disorders may be related to an underlying illness or medication. That does not mean that these symptoms should be excused or overlooked.
Depression and sleep deprivation can work in tandem to create a vicious cycle in which one disorder feeds off of the other. Long term depression can hinder overall health, even in the absence of a chronic illness. Consult with a doctor to see if medication is needed to help a senior citizen cope with feelings of depression or sleep loss.
In some cases, senior citizen depression may be related to feelings of loneliness or worthlessness. In these cases it is good to seek community and relationship among peers by joining clubs, visiting senior centers, or joining Church groups.
Heart and lung disorders
The heart and lungs are intimately linked together in the process of respiration that enables the heart to supply oxygenated blood throughout the body. failure is a common and serious condition in which the heart is too weak to pump blood throughout the entire body. As the heart grows weaker the symptoms of congestive heart failure become more obvious. Common symptoms of congestive heart failure are fluid back up in the lungs; swelling in the feet legs and ankles; and shortness of breath.
Congestive heart failure cannot be cured, but the symptoms associated with congestive heart failure can be treated with medication. A heart healthy diet, weight loss (for those who are overweight), and not smoking will contribute to a healthier stronger heart.
Coping with common illnesses among senior citizens
Sickness in senior adults begins to sound familiar and common, after a while. It is important to remember that each senior citizen is an individual whose ailments and symptoms may vary. Complaints and ailments should be treated by a physician and not dismissed as because a person is old. It is easier to treat illnesses identified sooner rather than later.
Individual health and wellness is an important factor in the aging process. Physical, mental, social, and spiritual fitness involve lifelong processes. When these are in place, becoming a senior citizen does not have to be a catastrophe of illness.
Congestive Heart Failure / Cardiomyopathy, JAMA; Journal articles and abstracts
Emergency Room Injuries 65 and Older, US Consumer Product Safety Division, cpsc.gov
Heart Failure, AMA Guide to Prevention and Wellness
Healthy Aging Center, Webmd.com
Personal Interviews / Discussions with Senior Citizens
Personal Interviews / Discussions with Senior Citizen Care Givers
The State of Aging and Health in America, cdc.gov
The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, cdc.gov