Is your parent starting to get older and you want to be sure you’re looking after their health and well-being the best you can? Perhaps they are still living on their own, maybe they live with you or you’re considering an assisted living facility. Their age isn’t what determines their level of care and assistance needed, rather, it is their health. Some 70-year-olds may be a spry and active as a 30-year-old, whereas other 70-year-olds may have a multitude of health issues.
As a family member, it’s important to be aware of the common health issues that can coincide with aging, so you can recognize the red flags when they appear and act appropriately. Usually, the faster you can address the issue, the better off your parent will be.
Here’s a look at six common health issues that an elderly parent may face and what you can do about it.
Arthritis is something that can happen to anyone at any time, not just the elderly. It is, however, more common as people age. It is usually described as stiff joints that feel inflamed and painful. While arthritis is typically chronic, many treatments can help.
A few warning signs to be on the lookout for that may point to arthritis are:
- Joint pain that doesn’t go away over time
- Pain and tenderness if you touch the joint
- Joint stiffness
- Swelling of the joints
- The joints appear red and warm
- Not being able to move around as freely and pain-free
As for the treatment options, much of that will depend on the type of arthritis your parent has, the location of it, and the severity. Visiting the doctor as soon as they suspect arthritis will be key so they can get their pain under control. The doctor may recommend lifestyle changes like losing weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising more regularly (such as stretches), knowing when to rest, and even getting different shoes. Then there are medications meant to combat the pain and inflammation that can also be very helpful.
This is another health issue that isn’t reserved for the elderly alone, but it can be more common in seniors. Statistics show that seniors are at greater risk of developing diabetes, so they must do what they can to limit the risk. If they have been diagnosed with prediabetes, this is a time for serious lifestyle changes to try to stop the progression.
What’s the best way to prevent diabetes? Eating a healthy well-balanced diet that includes plenty of natural foods and little sugar is the best plan. Other things that help are maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly.
If your elderly parent has been diagnosed with heart disease, this is something that needs to be taken very seriously. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among the elderly according to the CDC. It can be brought on by high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a history of stroke. Treatment tends to involve medication, surgery or a medical procedure, and major lifestyle changes.
Just as you may expect, the best way to limit your parent’s risk of developing heart disease is to encourage a healthy lifestyle. It’s all the same practices as above – eating healthily, exercising, keeping a good body weight, quit smoking (if applicable), and getting enough sleep.
Then we have memory loss, which can be mild, moderate, or severe. For those who have a more severe form of memory loss, it may be necessary to move to an assisted care facility so you know they will have help 24/7, such as one that offers memory care near Chicago.
Memory loss can be scary, overwhelming, frustrating, and cause depression in your parent, so it’s not something to ignore. Even if it’s mild, you will want to bring it to their doctor’s attention as soon as possible. Their doctor can then examine them to determine if their memory loss is just normal forgetfulness and part of aging or if it points to something more concerning such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
While pneumonia may not sound like a big deal on the surface, the fact is that it can be very serious for seniors. This is another leading cause of death among seniors as their bodies have a harder time fighting off this type of infection. The good news is that they can get the pneumonia vaccine, which offers an excellent level of protection.
Depression may not be the first health issue that seniors deal with, but in reality, it is more common than you may think. Seniors can be dealing with loneliness, loss (of a partner, friends, or family members), they may feel sadness over the amount of time they have left, regrets in life can be hard to swallow, and even a sense of helplessness and a loss of control.
If your parent shows any signs of depression it’s important to seek help. You can begin by talking with them and their doctor, who can then offer advice on what to do next.
In terms of the warning signs to look for, these are common ones in people who are suffering from depression:
- They are in a sad mood that lasts for weeks
- They lose interest in things they enjoyed before
- They are withdrawn
- They don’t get dressed and go about their daily routine
- They don’t answer the phone when you call
- Their appetite changes
- Their weight changes
- They tell you they are feeling sad or lonely
- They seem tired all the time
- They get emotional easily
Other symptoms can point to depression as well. The point is that they shouldn’t be ignored, the faster you get them some help, the better off they will be.
Being Mindful of Your Parent’s Health
Growing old is a wonderful thing, it means you’ve been blessed with a long life. With that said, being mindful of your parent’s health and stepping in to seek help when needed will help ensure they have many more years ahead of them.