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Physical And Psychological Implications Of Aging, Significant To The Health Problems In Elderly Persons

Updated on February 17, 2014

Health problems In The Elderly people

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Physical Implications And Presentations

As an individual ages, changes are well observed in his/her alimentary system, excretory system, Bones and joints, muscles, blood system, endocrine system, skin and most significantly, his/her psychological makeup. The previous hub discusses more changes, just go to the buttom of this hub where the slide is and click on the previous hub or simple click on this link.

Alimentary disorders: Loss of teeth makes ingestion of several articles of food difficult. Atrophy of the salivary glands, strophic gastritis, peptic ulcers, colonic polyps, diverticulosis and cholecystitis are common in the elderly. The poor food intake and immobility lead to constipation. If unattended, this may develop into inspissated feces syndrome in which constipation, alternating spurious diarrhea and fecal incontinence are seen. Malignant lesions in the hepatobiliary system, gall stones and drug-induced hepatotoxicity are more common.

Excretory System: Renal impairment occurs as a result of chronic pyelonephritis and benign nephrosclerosis. Obstructive uropathy due to enlargement of the prostate is an almost invariable accompaniment above the age of 80 years. The severity of symptoms vary. Several precipitating causes such as urinary infection, prolonged recumbency, instrumentation or sympathomimetic drugs lead to acute obstruction. Elderly women develop senile vaginitis, rectocele, cystocele and uterine prolapsed which all predispose to recurrent urinary infections.

Bones and Joints: Many weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips and spine and small joints of the hands and feet develop osteoarthrosis. This tends to make the patient immobile. Phlebothrombosis and embolism are common. Accidents and falls are frequent and these initiate the downhill course. Fracture neck of the femur, Colles’ fracture and vertebral compression fractures are brought about by osteoporosis. Movements of the shoulder may be restricted by shoulder- hand syndrome.

Muscles: There is generalized atrophy of muscles, myotonia and loss of power. In many areas, contractures, cramps or tetany and claudication may develop.

Hematological disorders:Anemia may develop due to poor intake of proteins, iron and vitamins. This is further worsened by loss of blood from hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and parasitism. Incidence of lymphoma shows a peak in the elderly. Areas of minor trauma such as the dorsum of the hands, wrists and lower parts of the legs and feet show senile purpura.

Endocrine system: The gonads, thyroid and adrenal cortex show generalized hypofunction. Myxedema is not uncommon. Since the presentation may be atypical, they may be inititally mistaken for primary psychiatric disorders.

Skin: Atrophy of the skin makes it thin and inelastic. There is reduction in subcutaneous fat. These factors make the skin vulnerable to chronic decubitus ulcers. Paraesthesiae and pruritus are common. The latter may become extremely distressing and intractable, leading to severe distress.

Psychological Change In Geriatric Patients

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Psychological changes

The elderly become irritable and less adaptable to surroundings. Change in social behavious, emotional instability, loss of self-confidence, mental depression, hallucinations and paranoid and persecutory fears result in social isolation.

In dealing with problems in the elderly, It is absolutely essential to bear in mind that they may have

  1. Multiple problems
  2. Atypical presentation of disease, and
  3. The response to drugs and other therapeutic measures may be unpredictable.

Irrespective of the symptom, a full physical examination is absolutely necessary to make a complete diagnosis. Since the aged are very susceptible to adverse drug reactions, close monitoring is essential. As yet no drug is available to combat senescence. The aim of therapy is not just to prolong life but to make it useful and enjoyable.

© 2014 Funom Theophilus Makama

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