What to Expect With Aging & How You Can Help Loved Ones

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what to expect with aging

Navigating the waters of caring for aging parents can be a difficult task, especially when you’ve never been through it before. It’s hard to know what to expect, what’s normal, and when you may need extra help.

While finding out more about the normal process of aging is beneficial, at USA Healthcare we are happy to partner with you to care for the senior adult in your life. Each individual is different, but we know what to expect, and our staff knows how to help from our nurses, dietary team, therapists, and others.

Changes to Expect As Senior Adults Age

Sometimes an older adult ages well and handles the changes that come with that with little problem. But in many cases, there is a need for additional help. This need could become obvious very quickly, but most often, it’s a gradual change that you should be on the lookout for in your elderly loved ones. 

Here are some of the biggest areas of change that come about with aging, and some ideas for how you can help. Thinking about some of these areas may also help you create a care plan.

Decreased Mobility

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 4 older adults will have a fall each year. To make sure your loved one isn’t part of that statistic, evaluate their living space. Look for potential fall hazards, such as unsafe indoor or outdoor stairs (especially without railings); potentially unsafe step ladders or stools; or throw rugs. 

You may be able to make modifications to their homes, such as adding guardrails, grab bars, higher toilet seats, or ramps. A physical or occupational therapist can also evaluate the home environment and mobility. At USA Healthcare facilities, our therapists focus on helping seniors learn to navigate these mobility issues as well.

Mental Health & Memory

Depression, dementia, and anxiety are all common as seniors age. It’s normal for an older person to feel down every once in a while for various reasons. However when symptoms become more severe or long lasting, they may need help. Look for symptoms such as changes in energy levels; irritability or anger; loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities; difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual; eating more or less than usual; and thoughts of death or suicide.

Dementia is more of a memory change or impairment involving forgetfulness. While some forgetfulness is normal with aging, dementia symptoms are more severe and may make daily activities like financial management, managing medications, and driving difficult or even dangerous.

Remember that a chronic illness or limited mobility increases a person’s risk of developing depression and anxiety. Listen and offer emotional support or consult a geriatric psychiatrist who will be trained to recognize and treat mental illnesses in older people. We think mental health in older adults is very important, and we offer psychiatric services at The Sanctuary at the Woodlands.

Changes in Appearance

Changes in appearance can be normal with aging, but sometimes it can signify a larger issue. Watch for losing or gaining a significant amount of weight, hair that becomes matted or unkempt, unexplained bruises, or an odor that suggests your loved one isn’t bathing. 

There could be many reasons for these extreme changes, such as a lack of awareness that could point to depression or a cognitive issue that may need evaluation and treatment. It could also be related to changes in mobility, such as a fear of getting in and out of the bathtub or shower. Seeking mental health care, making safety changes to the home, or finding help at one of our facilities may be necessary.

Overall Physical Health

When it comes to physical health, there will likely be many changes that come along with aging. Here are some of the most common ones.

  • Heart health — The most common change in the cardiovascular system is stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries, ultimately resulting in the increased risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. To promote heart health, seniors should get plenty of physical activity, eat a healthy diet, not smoke, get enough sleep, and properly manage stress.
  • Bones, joints, and muscles — With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. (Some people even become a bit shorter than they once were.) Muscles generally lose strength, endurance, and flexibility, which can affect coordination, stability, and balance. Seniors should get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D and be physically active to help with these areas. Physical therapy can be very helpful.
  • Digestive system — Age-related structural changes in the large intestine can result in more constipation in older adults. Other contributing factors include a lack of exercise, not drinking enough fluids, and a low-fiber diet. Medications, such as diuretics and iron supplements and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, also might contribute to constipation. A healthy diet, exercise, and not ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can help. 
  • Bladder and urinary tract — The bladder may become less elastic with age, resulting in the need to urinate more often. Weakening of bladder muscles and pelvic floor muscles may make it difficult to empty the bladder completely or cause the loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence). Going to the restroom often, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and certain types of exercises may help.
  • Eyes and ears — With age, it may be difficult to focus on objects that are close up, and the eyes may become more sensitive to glare and different levels of light. Aging may also affect the eye’s lens, causing clouded vision (cataracts). Hearing may diminish. Regular check-ups with an eye doctor, ENT, or audiologist will be helpful, and glasses, hearing aids, or other corrective devices may make a huge difference.
  • Teeth — The gums might pull back from the teeth, and certain medications, such as those that treat allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can cause dry mouth. As a result, teeth and gums might become slightly more vulnerable to decay and infection. Seniors should always brush and floss twice a day and continue visiting the dental for regular check-ups. Dentures may be necessary in some cases.
  • Skin — The skin thins and becomes less elastic and more fragile, and fatty tissue just below the skin decreases as we age. Senior adults might bruise more easily. Decreased production of natural oils might make the skin drier, and wrinkles, age spots, and small growths called skin tags are more common. Seniors should bathe regularly in warm (not hot) water and use mild soap and moisturizer. They should always apply sunscreen when outdoors and wear protective clothing for the elements. 

Change will happen as your senior adult loved ones age, but it’s how everyone handles it that really matters most. There is always a solution to try, and many slight adjustments can make a world of difference. If additional care through assisted living or skilled nursing is the next step for the senior adult in your life, we are happy to help our home become their home for a short-term or long-term stay.

USA Healthcare: Your Family is Our Family

At USA Healthcare, we look forward to getting to know you and your family and helping you get the answers you need when it comes to the best care options for your loved ones.

Contact us at USA Healthcare to discuss our long-term and short-term care facilities and options. We’re here for you!