A lot of bodily changes occur in all body organs with aging. Individuals become more dissimilar as they grow. From their skin to heart, to all body tissues, cells and organs will have the impact of age. Elderly patients differ in many ways from the young ones and this distinction creates the existence of the separate specialty in medicine called the Geriatrics.
While gradual effect on bodily organs is normal with aging, an abrupt decline in any system’s functionality is always due to presence of some chronic disease and cannot be attributed to normal aging process. However, you can have a fitter and healthier body if you learn about the healthy way of aging and understand your body better.
Elderly are different from adults in many ways. From their body changes to the way they respond to diseases, there is a clear difference between the seniors and the adults. Hence, it is necessary for the caregivers as well as the medical practitioners to deal with them appropriately considering the following factors:
- Bodily changes: A number of changes take place in elderly with age. Some of the changes may include change in cardiac output, blood pressure, kidney output, gas exchange in lungs, vital capacity, expiratory flow rates, creatinine levels, gastrointestinal system and blood sugar levels among others.
- Aging Pathology: Aging comes with a lot of pathological issues. Malignant diseases, infections, effects of trauma, falls and accidents, fractures are some of the common ones. However, presentation and diagnosis of diseases and disorders in the elderly are influenced by many factors:
- Aging and disease process
- Multiple pathology
- Missing symptoms due to patients’ immobility
- Masking of known diseases due to overlap of symptoms
- Under reporting in elderly: It is seen that a lot of times, diseases or health concerns in elderly are ignored and not reported by the patients themselves due to the callous attitude and sometimes by their relatives and family members, considering symptoms as the normal sign of aging.
- History taking: Taking history of the illness from an elderly patient is an art as careful questioning is required. It could get difficult for physicians to determine whether a certain change is age borne or due to a disease in elderly. Some of the barriers in obtaining proper history in senior patients can be their mental confusion, deafness, poor concentration, less cooperation and idiosyncrasies. In elderlies, history taking should also include emphasis on social history, mental health, assessment of activity and drug history.Other unusual parameters that result in difficult history taking in elderly are pain, acute confusion state, altered fever response, non-specific presentation like non-reporting of tiredness and fatigue, deterioration of mobility, peripheral neuropathy, bone pains, etc.
- Examination: Since elderly patients might not be very cooperative, it is important to amass as much information as possible by carefully examining them. The doctor, preferably a geriatrician should be experienced enough to correlate the symptoms, which might not be the usual presenting symptoms of the disease.
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