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Coping with Chronic Conditions as an Older Person

Getting older comes with many challenges. Taking a look at the statistics highlights the problems the elderly face, such as how they can maintain their independence despite suffering from chronic diseases. Read on to tell when help is needed, as well as how to maximize your opportunities to live a full life no matter your age or life stage as an older person. 

What the Statistics Say and How to Beat Them

For adults over the age of 65 (this applies to 49 million Americans), there is an 80% chance (39,200,000 people in the US) that you have one chronic disease, while 68% have two or more chronic diseases. So, the odds are pretty high. Some of the most common of these conditions are hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, coronary heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, depression, dementia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

COPD is made up of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Avoiding tobacco is the best way to reduce this risk. The chance of dementia can be reduced by eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising. As heart failure could be caused by hypertension, it is essential to get a doctor’s advice and be on appropriate medication. Both hypertension and diabetes can lead to chronic kidney disease. Diabetes can be controlled by eating the prescribed diet, losing weight, exercising, and taking medications. To prevent heart disease, avoid bad fats, perform cardio, get adequate sleep, and cut out smoking. Arthritis is relieved with strength-building, stretching, and aerobic exercise, and keeping weight under control. Help is available for depression.

Maintaining Independence, Living your Life

Perhaps the greatest motivation of elderly people is to continue their independence for as long as possible, with their dignity intact. If you think this is too much to ask for, read on. 

One of the fears chronic diseases awaken is losing touch with the self and sliding down into forgetfulness. Dementia is more common in the elderly. It is made up of various diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Dementia is characterized by a loss of memory, difficulty in staying in touch with one’s thoughts, an inability to manage emotions, and negative behaviors, such as wandering off and getting lost. 

The good news is that some age-related memory loss is normal, without ever turning into dementia, a condition in which brain cells that have been damaged resulting in changes to emotions, cognitive abilities, and behavior. 

Aging people generally acquire four symptoms that are not dementia. The first is remembering events from the more distant past but being unable to recall something that happened yesterday. Secondly, many older individuals are put on the spot when trying to find a specific word, only to recall it later. The third symptom is frequently misplacing items such as car keys. Lastly, the elderly easily forget the names of acquaintances. These are all perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.

The good news is that you can take charge of your life.

Start by having a place for everything and everything in its place. Get rid of clutter. Put all your mail in a pile in the same spot and have a reminder on the fridge to check for and pay bills or allocate one day a week to attend to such tasks and diarise it. Keep your diary on the table that is next to your favorite chair so that you are constantly reminded to look at it.

To avoid taking prescription drugs incorrectly and risking your health, have a weekly time slot for getting your medicines sorted into pillboxes for each day and dosage. Record it in your planner. If you can’t manage this, have a relative come by and do it for you.

Eat healthy meals. The brain needs certain foods to be at its best. This includes fresh fruit and vegetables, sufficient quality protein such as lean meats, fish, eggs, and poultry, wholegrain and fiber, and healthy-fat dairy products. Dehydration can cause symptoms that are debilitating and even life-threatening, so adequate water is essential.

Stay active with aerobic exercise such as walking. This sends blood through the body and to the brain. Blood flow to the hippocampus in the brain stimulates learning and memory as a direct effect of exercise. The hippocampus starts to shrink with age, but aerobic exercise can reverse the process. 

Being socially active and having creative hobbies can stave off depression and mental deterioration.

Is Assisted Care Needed and What is it?

More good news is that 93.5% of Americans over the age of 65 do not reside in nursing homes (only 4.5% do) or in assisted living facilities (2%). So, the majority of older people will remain within their communities.

Those who are taken care of in assisted living facilities generally receive the following services: full-time monitoring and assistance, provision of meals, transportation, housekeeping, exercise, and other wellness programs, management of prescription medications, and help with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). 

ADLs are activities that every independent person can do for themselves. However, some residents in assisted care cannot manage these basics. The six main ADLs are walking/moving around, feeding oneself, choosing clothes to wear and getting dressed, personal hygiene (bathing, brushing teeth and hair, trimming nails), continence, and toileting. When an older person has these needs, they or their families are likely to start looking at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, such as Belmont Village Burbank.

Some people can manage the basic ADLs but need assistance with the instrumental ADLs. These are transport, managing finances, grocery shopping, and making meals, housework, home maintenance, taking care of emails and phone calls, and fetching medication from the pharmacy. Even with these needs, people can still live a relatively independent life in their own homes as long as they have outside assistance.

Every person desires to hold onto their independence as long as possible and well into old age. This is still possible even if some activities like driving and paying the bills have become too difficult.