We often ignore symptoms that we can rationalize – we’re tired because stress is keeping us awake at night or feel foggy because we’re coming down with a cold. This is especially common among the elderly, as many of these symptoms can be associated with old age and its daily ailments. Knowing when these dismissible symptoms become something more can be a crucial step to staying healthy. Spot the following symptoms early to help identify a serious health concern you or a loved one should be aware of:
Fatigue. Defined as extreme tiredness, fatigue can cause many health problems, but it’s not to be discounted as a symptom itself. When the body has to work harder to perform regular functions, it can make the day feel longer and cause the body to tire more frequently and easily. Symptoms of chronic fatigue can be as debilitating as hallucinations and impaired hand-eye coordination. On a milder level, people suffering from fatigue may experience headaches, moodiness, or appetite loss. As a symptom, fatigue can be an indicator of anemia, inflammatory disorders, or hypothyroidism in you or your loved one.
Lack of appetite. Don’t discount the dwindling diet you or your loved one may be consuming as a result of engaging in less physical activity and therefore needing fewer nutrients. A wholesome diet is still essential to sustaining the body as we age. A decreased desire for food can have less to do with a lower metabolic rate and more to do with a lack of interest due to varied taste buds, sense of smell, side effects from any medications, or age-related gastrointestinal changes like lactose intolerance. However, it’s times like these the problem may be more severe and this is the body’s way of insisting we pay attention. The internal causes of appetite loss or taste changes can be warning signs of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, or head and neck cancers.
Indigestion, nausea, or vomiting. As we get older, appetites, diets, and lifestyles change. With these changes, our stomachs can become more sensitive to certain foods, leading to indigestion or vomiting. If these are uncommon occurrences and you or a loved one aren’t experiencing other flu-like symptoms, these may very well be symptoms of a heart attack.
Disorientation or confusion. As we age, we encounter forgetfulness and confusion more often. However, when confusion becomes disorientation, it can lead to wandering and injury. Some of the causes may seem obvious, such as absentmindedness and dementia, but others can be overlooked, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs, for example, can produce or heighten symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s and dementia as bacteria infect the bloodstream.
Cold arms, legs, hands, and feet. As the weather gets cooler, we all begin to complain about cold hands and feet, especially the elderly. We accept that seniors experience cold extremities more often because their circulatory function decreases with age. However, if the body is trying to compensate for the heart’s inability to pump enough blood throughout the body, hands and feet suffer the most. Without blood to warm them, these body parts are left feeling cold. If this happens to you or a loved one, it can be a sign of chronic heart failure and develop into shock, which happens when the amount of blood your heart is pumping becomes critically low.
Having a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Home Health Aide (HHA) check in with you or a loved one regularly can help determine whether any symptoms are cause for concern. Granny NANNIES is a home health care agency providing specialized home care services to the elderly since 1990. Our services can be personalized to meet any home care requirements and are available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.