One of the unfortunate side effects of growing old is declining health. It’s an unpleasant truth that as we age, we encounter more and more medical issues. Some of these are the result of a lifetime of contributors like a poor diet, smoking, or physically-demanding work. Others are just a matter of genetics catching up with us.
It’s widely understood that older people face problems like cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at a rate much higher than their younger friends and relatives. But a number of other health problems fly under the radar, impacting the elderly at a surprisingly high rate without commanding the headlines or attention of these standard ailments. Yet these lower-profile problems can pose a serious threat to the elderly, an issue compounded by everything from their declining immune systems to the social stigma of certain problems.
Understanding what these particular problems are is an important preventive step for you and your elderly acquaintances. Knowing in advance what could come along can allow for measures to be taken to avoid, or at least to treat, these conditions before they significantly impact quality of life.
Perhaps the most surprising health risk is the prospect of addiction to alcohol or drugs. Yet this is a very real problem for many people. There are a number of factors that can lead to abuse by people who have been sober their entire lives. Patients at Landmark Recovery run the gamut of abuse history, from those who’ve struggled their whole lives to those who’ve never had an issue.
The sources are many, but stress is a common one. Children and grandchildren move away, friends die, and financial problems can develop. Meanwhile, painkillers and alcohol can gradually be overused. Whatever the trigger, many elderly people develop addiction problems, and they require treatment that is more specialized due to their fragile health, complex triggers, and underlying psychological issues.
Some of the triggers behind substance abuse in the elderly can sometimes be depression, an actual medical condition that differs from simply going through a tough time or experiencing grief.
The transition from episodic to chronic is more common in the elderly because their problems often don’t fade away. A young person may be very upset over a job loss but will rebound as soon as a new position is found. When an elderly person loses a spouse or close friend, the pain is permanent. Understanding this is key for treatment professionals.
Additionally, these triggers are unavoidable. If we’re fortunate enough to reach old age, we know that we will see painful changes. In addition to losing loved ones, we can find ourselves struggling for a purpose after retirement. And we may just struggle with living in a world that’s very different from the one we grew up in.
There’s a great irony in seeing a country with so many people who are overweight while others are not getting enough nutrients. Yet it happens, and it’s more than just an issue of not maintaining a healthy weight. A variety of other conditions can develop secondary to malnutrition.
Lack of adequate nutrition can come from a variety of sources. Some elderly people may be worried about their finances and spend as little as possible on food. Others may be spending so much on their medicine that those concerns are well-founded. Still others may not be physically able to cook for themselves, and some may have dementia that could interfere with their ability to eat properly.
Family and friends should help monitor the situation and see to it that supplements are available to those who aren’t eating as they should.
Our golden years should be enjoyable, but our health is often the biggest barrier to that. Careful prevention, proper treatment, and the help of others can be the difference between health and sickness in senior citizens.