Warning Signs of Health Deterioration

It is a common misconception that aging means inevitable disability. Of course no body system remains untouched by the aging process but many signs of reversible illness are often mistaken for simple aging processes. It is especially important to question any changes which seem to have occurred over a short period of time.

Memory loss is often a slow, sometimes almost imperceptible change that goes unnoticed until a crisis of some sort occurs. Suddenly, an elderly person forgets how to get to the store or takes several days of medication all at once. Frequently, in retrospect, families will realize that their loved one has been compensating for many small lapses in memory over a period of months or years. Because these lapses may have been sporadic, they were brushed off as simple forgetfulness or "senior moments". It is important to realize which circumstances are normal and which may be raising a red flag of concern. Any signs of significant memory loss, especially short term memory loss, should be evaluated. Several correctable physical problems can cause problems with memory that are completely reversible. These include urinary tract infections, inappropriate blood levels of some medications, small strokes or TIA's, or clinical depression. It is important to have a physician evaluate your loved one to prevent further issues, some of which could be life threatening.

Another concern with the elderly is poor nutrition and dehydration. Depression, memory loss, physical weakness, alterations in taste and smell all affect the elderly person's intake of food and fluids. They may simply not have the energy to prepare nutritious meals. They may not remember how to use appliances or complete recipes they have made for years. They may not feel thirsty. They may have changes in their dental status that make it uncomfortable to eat and so they snack on soft treats instead of eating a balanced diet. Frequently their taste is altered and so they no longer enjoy eating or crave only sweets because that is the flavor they can readily identify. The problems brought on by poor intake of food and fluid can often start a dangerous spiral. The lack of intake causes increasing weakness and lethargy. This makes it even more difficult to summon the energy to prepare meals and so the poor intake continues and leads to even more weakness and lethargy.

Poor control of high blood pressure is also a common problem for the elderly, and uncontrolled blood pressure can affect many body systems leading to kidney failure and strokes as well as a variety of other problems. Frequently it is difficult to get to the doctor's office for regular blood pressure evaluation or there may be issues of forgetfulness that result in improper medication management. Diets may be poor with too much salt intake, sometimes simply because of lack of education about sodium content in common foods. Many do not realize that the convenience foods they purchase because they are no longer able to cook are often very high in sodium.

There are several warning signs that help to identify potential blood pressure problems and the need for physician intervention. These include dizziness, confusion, memory loss, weakness, and headache. Some of the damage caused by uncontrolled blood pressure is reversible with proper diet and medication but long term problems that go untreated may cause damage that can not be corrected.

Assisting the elderly with management of diet, medication monitoring, and meal preparation are all skills provided by Caring People Services and their experienced staff can often identify even small changes that warrant attention. Their assistance with cooking, shopping, medication reminders, and simple companionship has been proven to make a difference in improving and maintaining the health management of their clients. Because of this, many of our clients tell us that we were truly "the someone they were hoping to find."

For more information about Caring People Services, contact Carolyn Roberts, R.N. or Joni Hogancamp today.

Proud member of the Home Care Association of America and the Paducah Chamber of Commerce