Common health problems in older adults

Do you have dizziness?

Dizziness is common among older adults. It might come and go, sometimes described as lightheadedness or “the room is spinning,” and can be accompanied by nausea or vomiting. Dizziness in older adults can be caused by many reasons and can be affected by many factors. For example, in a patient with diabetes, dizziness may be caused by multiple factors all at once, such as low sugar, dehydration, abnormal nervous system damaged by diabetes, or side effects of diabetes medications.

Since dizziness in older adults can be caused by multiple factors, its diagnosis and treatment are more complicated than in younger adults. As a result, it is important to seek care from a specially trained multidisciplinary geriatrics team who can manage this problem in a safe and systematic way.

Do you have dementia?

Dementia is a common geriatric syndrome that can cause catastrophic health outcomes in older adults. Apart from memory problems, patients with dementia may also experience issues with decision making, data processing, or daily functioning, such as inability to leave the house by themselves without getting lost, or inability to manage their own finances. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is not curable. As a result, current management of dementia focuses on modification of various factors that may affect symptoms of dementia, such as home environment, sleeping habits, and prescription medications. In order to comprehensively address all of these factors in a systematic manner, older adults need the expertise of a multidisciplinary geriatrics team, who can form a holistic, patient-centered plan that meshes with the patient’s routine and lifestyle.

Do you have brittle bones?

Osteoporosis, or brittle bones, is common among older adults, since their hormonal function may decline with age. It can also be affected by many other factors, such as inadequate calcium intake, side effects from prescription medications such as steroids, smoking, etc.

Most patients may not experience any symptoms until it is too late: when they have fallen and broken their hips or wrists. As a result, it is important to get routine osteoporosis screenings from a geriatrics team who understands the delicate interplay among the many factors that can contribute to osteoporosis. The team can also help

Do you have depression?

Depression in older adults can be caused by many factors, such as abnormal thyroid glands, side effects of alcohol or drug use, side effects of prescription medications, etc. Moreover, the symptoms of depression can mimic those of dementia, complicating the diagnosis of depression in older adults. As a result, older adults who may have depression should be seen by a specially trained multidisciplinary geriatrics team who can systematically detect these contributing factors to see if they can be managed before antidepressants are used.

In addition, older adults are more likely to experience side effects of antidepressants than younger adults, since their livers and kidneys may not function as well. Consequently, management of depression in older adults should be monitored by geriatric pharmacists who are experienced in detecting unwanted side effects and can help doctors adjust medications to match the physiology of each older adult patient.

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