Better medical care and earlier diagnosis of many conditions mean we are seeing the average age of the population in the UK increase.We currently have around four million older people in the UK and this is predicted to rise to around seven million in the next ten years. This may seem like good news, and to a certain extent it is, but the likelihood of being affected by long-term medical conditions and risk of diseases rises as we age.
Looking out for early signs and symptoms of age-related conditions can help aid a long-term prognosis in many cases of age-related disease. Early diagnosis and suitable treatment delivered as early as possible could help not only aid recovery, but give a greater long-term outlook.
Whether your loved one is in a care home or an in-home carer is employed; knowing the signs and symptoms of early onset age-related disease is vital in preventing health worsening, and in some cases, becoming untreatable. Here, we look at just some of the age-related conditions that could present in the elderly and how to spot the signs.
Known more commonly as high blood pressure, around one in four adults have it and will not realise until a potentially dangerous hypertensive crisis, with severe headaches, chest pain, irregular heartbeat and anxiety. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to other potentially life threatening medical conditions. As the signs are so few until crisis point, getting your loved one’s blood pressure checked regularly to spot rises early and ensuring they are taking the required precautionary measures are strongly advised.
Around one in fourteen people over sixty-five, increasing to one in six of the over eighties will suffer from dementia in some form.Getting an early diagnosis could help to combat some of the symptoms. Signs of dementia can include the most commonly known; difficulty remembering events, and where you are or what day of the week it is.However, there are some less common such as difficulty judging distances and conversational problems of struggling to keep up with flow or finding the right words. With nearly one million people in the UK living with dementia, early diagnosis giving more time to prepare for the future and early treatment.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is, effectively, a blood clot. These occur most commonly in the legs of those affected, but can sometimes present in the lungs. This is a condition most common in people over forty, and can lead to further complications such as pulmonary embolisms and strokes. With obesity and longer periods of inactivity being increasing factors this can be a risk for those with limited mobility, making the infirm and elderly who may be in bed longer or sitting for many hours at risk. Common signs of deep vein thrombosis include pain, tenderness and swelling in one leg, and there may be a heavy ache around the affected area. Warm or red skin in the area of the clot or particularly at the back of the leg below the knee may be harder to spot, so keep regular checks when still for long periods. There may be signs of a mild fever also.
Chronic kidney disease is fairly common in older people in the UK. Several other medical conditions can lead to chronic kidney disease including high blood pressure and diabetes, so regular check ups and treatment for other conditions can reduce the risk of kidney problems developing.Early stage signs and symptoms are quite rare and may be picked up during routine blood or urine tests for other medical conditions, yet another reminder to have regular and routine check-ups.
As the condition worsens, the person may suffer shortness of breath, swollen ankles, feet or hands, tiredness, feeling sick or blood in the urine – and a visit to a GP is a must.
With Parkinson’s affecting as many as one in every five hundred people in the UK, a staggering 130,000 people, the most common symptom thought of is the involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body, such as hand or leg tremors. It is worth mentioning that slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles as these too are common symptoms and may warn earlier than tremors.
Whilst cancer can and does strike at any age, statistics say one in two people will develop some form of cancer at some point in their life. With survival rates for older cancer sufferers being much lower, it is especially important for early investigation of symptoms such as weight loss, unexplained blood in urine, stools or when coughing or vomiting, as well as any unexplained lumps.
Chronic bronchitis affects both lungs and airways, comes under the umbrella of chronic pulmonary disease, and can result from repeated coughing daily for long periods. Symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, runny or blocked nose and fatigue or aches and pains in the chest can be signs. Any prolonged coughing spells occurring daily over months can cause infections and inflammation of the bronchial airway leading to chronic bronchitis.
There are many other age-related conditions such as arthritis, blindness through macular degeneration or glaucoma, diabetes, epilepsy and strokes to name a few. Many of these conditions share common signs and symptoms and some have very few early warning signs, meaning that regular check-ups and paying attention to behavioural changes in loved ones gives the best chance for detection, early treatment and, in some cases, survival.
If you’re unable to check on your elderly loved one as often as you’d like, or you feel that they could require some assistance at home, it may well be worth considering care at home services so that you can have peace of mind that there will always be someone to watch over your loved one. They could even ensure they have those all-important check-ups and vaccinations to help keep them in as good health as is possible as they age.