Are Respiratory Diseases In The Elderly Becoming More Prevalent?

The number of elderly individuals suffering from some form of chronic disease is growing ever higher. While chronic cardiovascular diseases are the most common types of chronic diseases, as well as being the most expensive to treat, diseases of the respiratory also rank highly with collected data showing that 14% of the elderly population in the UK are suffering with some form of chronic respiratory condition. In addition, 12 – 17% of the elderly population also suffer from sleep disturbances, where a respiratory condition is the most likely contributory factor.

There are a number of changes that can occur to the respiratory system as we age, and these potentially cause a number of issues with daily living activities. However with the right support and treatment it is possible for older individuals to continue to lead active lifestyles and continue participating in activities that they enjoy.

Types Of Respiratory Conditions

There are a number of respiratory conditions that can affect individuals as they get older, and these can include: Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), Pulmonary Embolism, Sleep Disorders (breathing), and other respiratory problems can occur as a result of illness, a common one being Pneumonia resulting from a complication of illness or injury.

Asthma is an increasingly common respiratory problem amongst the general population. Asthma is a chronic airway inflammatory condition. Symptoms include: shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Symptoms occur as a result of ‘triggers’ in an individual’s environment. For example an individual’s symptoms may be triggered as a result of dust or animal fur. Asthma is generally treated the same in elderly individuals, as it is with younger people, however it often goes undiagnosed in the elderly, which means that it often goes untreated. This is because diagnosis can be complex, and there is a high likelihood of asthma in the elderly being confused with another condition that may be more common amongst the elderly (e.g. COPD).

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) is a disease that obstructs the airway, and it gets progressively worse over time. Depending how early the condition is diagnosed some of the effects can be reversible, as there are some treatment options available, however it is likely that an individual suffering from COPD would need oxygen in order to support their breathing. Symptoms of COPD include: coughing, shortness of breath, and a decreased tolerance for exercise. There are a few preventative measures that could be taken against this disease, and an example of this would be giving up or not starting smoking.

As individuals get older it increases the likelihood that complications may occur following a period of illness or injury. For example after a fall the chances of developing Pneumonia are much higher in elderly individuals in comparison to other members of the population. Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition that is caused as a result of an infection. The reason that this condition is much more common in elderly individuals because they are more likely to have a weakened immune system, meaning that they would be more susceptible to infections.

How Home Care Can Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from a respiratory condition it may become beneficial to implement a health care package. This is largely because some respiratory conditions are progressive (e.g. COPD) which means that an individual is likely to struggle in completing daily activities more as the condition progresses.

For example an older individual suffering from COPD may eventually require oxygen to assist their breathing. The use of oxygen can make completing some activities much more restrictive, as individuals who have respiratory conditions that are severe enough to require support from oxygen may feel increasingly tired, and their mobility may worsen over time.

Through the implementation of a home care package an individual would be able to obtain all of the help and support that they need as care workers would be able to assist with all aspects of personal care. For example for those with poor mobility or those who can only complete short burst of activity, a care worker would be able to support them with all areas of life including: washing, dressing, medication management, meal preparation, and going out for outings.

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