There comes a point in adult life when caring for an elderly relative becomes necessary. In many cultures around the world, older relatives live with their younger family members for much of their life, but in America, where children often leave home and begin working many miles away as soon as they are old enough, having such responsibility can be new and overwhelming.
However fit and healthy your elderly relative is, there are several lesser-known conditions that you may not have thought about but should certainly be aware of. A lack of balance could make your home a dangerous environment for the elderly, while diets and exercise levels may need to be adjusted for those with dysphagia.
Remember to always speak to your relative’s doctor about their conditions.
Lack of Balance
The average amount of time somebody can stand on one leg reduces as they become older – it is around 40 seconds for those in their 50s, while those in their 70s managed only 27 seconds. Of course, your relative won’t go around the house trying to stand on one leg all day, but as one-third of adults over 65 fall each year, balance is certainly something to be taken seriously.
Heel-to-toe walking, yoga, and tai chi can all improve strength, flexibility, and balance, which could help slow the onset of severe balance issues. For those unable to take part in these practices, then handrails and chairlifts should be fitted as a precaution.
Until you know somebody with dysphagia, swallowing conditions are entirely unfamiliar to most people. Dysphagia can come as a general symptom of old age but can also be brought on by head injuries or strokes – whatever their cause, they make speaking, eating, and drinking very difficult, and special diets may be needed for your elderly relative to continue getting the vitamins they need.
Just as handrails provide aid to those with balance issues, food and drink thickeners assist people with dysphagia. By pureeing foods like vegetables and mixing them with SimplyThick gel the nutritional value of the food remains while becoming much easier to swallow. This also works with drinks such as water and juice.
It may come as a surprise that simple mild asthma in older patients has a similar impact to a younger patient with severe effects. This means asthma and other respiratory issues take on a whole different form with elderly people, making them much more serious and likely to cause harm. If your elderly relative has respiratory issues, then do what you can to give their lungs some help – fit stairlifts, help them out of chairs, don’t smoke indoors, and keep rooms ventilated.
Balance, dysphagia, and respiratory conditions are just three hidden conditions that could go unseen in your elderly relatives. However, there are other issues to be aware of such as deafness, loneliness, arthritis, diabetes, and blood pressure issues that don’t always present themselves obviously, especially if your relative has difficulty communicating.