Diseases of Elderly Women
Gender can differentiate us not only at an early age but also in old age. When we consider elderly women, for instance, the biggest changes in the functioning of the female body occur after menopause. This drastic drop in the level of female hormones leads to significant physiological changes and a severity in the aging processes. Menopausal women are much more exposed to a number of cardiovascular and systemic diseases than others. Their specificity makes elderly women a separate, substantial group of medical patients whose specific needs should be considered when assigning caregivers.
Some elderly women are more likely to choose male carers while others prefer female carers. Male carers can be useful if their needs are limited to shopping, help with medication, driving the client around or cooking and cleaning. Elderly patients with more intimate needs, may prefer female carers.
Some of the main disorders that affect elderly women are outlined below.
Cardiovascular Problems in Women
Throughout the periods of youth and middle age, the number of cardiac disorders and pathologies is comparatively higher in men. Women get heart disease rarely and the cause is usually a result of congenital and not lifestyle-related factors. This is because women are protected by hormones, mainly estrogens, which reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or myocardial ischemia.
Unfortunately, the effect of these hormones gradually becomes diminished after menopause. Cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks begin to catch up with women. A heart attack in women is rarely preceded by symptoms like men. It may occur unexpectedly without any warning, both for the patient and the family. Usual symptoms are pain in the chest spreading to the left hand or left clavicle or a feeling of breathlessness or nausea. First aid should be provided to a patient who is suspected of having symptoms resembling a heart attack. Those nearby should also call for medical help as soon as possible and put the patient in a calm, quiet place and ensure access to fresh air.
Another condition that often affects older women is osteoporosis, or loss of bone density leading to fractures, even with minor injuries. This disease commonly affects small and slim women. It is caused due to lack of calcium and vitamin D3 in the daily diet and lack of physical activity. Osteoporosis-related changes may also arise from long-term intake of certain medications, such as steroids.
Treatment of osteoporosis is difficult and costly. Once a patient has been diagnosed with this condition, treatment must be carried out for the rest of their life. The patient should particularly avoid any situation where even a minor injury can result in a fracture. Fractures of the femoral head are particularly dangerous, which can lead to long immobilization of the patient, and often permanent disability.
After the age of 50, the chance of some type of cancer increases for women. Two types of cancers that affect women in particular are breast cancer and cervical cancer. Regular gynaecological examinations, which are often overlooked by older women, may help in early detection and treatment of the cancer before it can grow.
Oncology therapy involves surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy (irradiation) and may combine these methods. New forms of anti-cancer drugs that slow down the growth of tumours can be administered at home orally. Mastectomy is a procedure usually performed for cancer patients. It consists of the removal of the breast gland together with the surrounding lymph nodes. This often results in post-surgical swelling of the limb on the side of the removed gland. The method is effective but painful and often combined together with radio or chemo therapy.
Muscle pain and soreness caused due to tumours and cancer treatment can be significantly reduced through regular limb physiotherapy and massages. Once mastectomy or removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) has been performed it does not mean that women should not take care of their body to reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Cancer cells can sometime recur in tissues located nearby. Even distant metastasis is possible in patients who have been affected by cancer once. Patients with a previous cancer diagnosis and treatment are considered to be at a higher risk.
Fear of the disease coming back should not control everyday life. However, it should prompt caution and self-control.
This disease can affect both genders but it usually occurs more frequently in women. Incontinence is more common in older women. This condition occurs due to the weakening of the Uterine Fundus muscle which happens with age as women lose their strength and muscles become weaker. This change can be caused due to giving multiple births or gynaecological surgeries.
There are an estimated 4 million people suffering from incontinence in the country. It’s most common causes are weakening of the urogenital tract and perineum, urinary tract infections, as well as neurological diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
Specialists distinguish three types of urinary incontinence causes: stress, pressure and mixed. In the first case, the uncontrolled leakage of urine occurs during sneezing, coughing or lifting something heavier and it is associated with the tension in the abdomen. The second type occurs when normal physiological activities, such as climbing stairs or getting off the car cause a discharge. The third type – mixed – is the combination of the two previous forms of the disease. Urine can flow out even when a person does not move in this condition.
Initially, urinary incontinence can only occur with increased exercise, long walking, moving heavy objects or during intense emotions (laughter, crying). Over time, this incontinence intensifies and it is necessary to apply nursing help.
Urological inserts are a popular method of nursing help. They have different levels of absorbency that effectively remove moisture and unpleasant odours. Government aid is available in some European States. In Poland, for instance, the purchase of inserts may be partially reimbursed by the state. Another therapeutic option is minor gynaecological procedure that improves the functioning of the urinary tract.
The problem of urinary incontinence is particularly problematic for patients who are bedridden. Consistently wetting of the skin can cause skin maceration and pressure sores. This disorder not only promotes the development of skin infections, but also the deterioration of mental health. People who are affected often feel helpless, embarrassed and avoid contact with others. Constant, full-time care and attention is required to keep them functioning effectively.
In many cases, women affected by the problem do not seek help because they either try to restrain themselves or simply do not know that urinary incontinence can be treated.
Urinary incontinence can be managed by performing Kegel exercises and pharmacotherapy. At the most advanced stage, it can be treated through an operation. For patients who have a urinary incontinence problem, urologists advise that they use the toilet at regular intervals, i.e. every two hours. It is also advised not to reduce the intake of liquids. Drinking the recommended amount of still water helps to cleanse the body of toxins and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
This disorder is also known as gout in its extreme form. It is associated with disorders of uric acid metabolism. It is a chronic disease and affects almost half the people over the age of 65. It is characterized by sudden pain, soreness, swelling and redness in joints, particularly the joints of toes and hands. The swelling is caused due to accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. These acids are a by-product of the food that we consume.
A person affected by the disorder may also experience pain in the joints that can appear in the hands, feet, ankles, arms or knees.
In order to prevent arthritis, it is extremely important to have an active lifestyle without straining the body too much. Experts warn that you should always stop exercising when any pain occurs due to limb strain. One of the underlying causes of arthritis is obesity. So, it is also worthwhile to take care of your weight. A study conducted in Framingham in the US showed that a loss of only 5 kg reduces the likelihood of knee pain by as much as 50 percent.
A caregiver can schedule daily exercise into a client’s lifestyle to minimize the risks of arthritis.
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease caused by excessive loss of bone tissue. The bones become so fragile that even a trivial fall can result in a fracture.
A report conducted in 2011 showed that almost 3 million people suffer from osteoporosis every year. The problem concerns about 30 percent of women and 8 percent of men over 50 years of age. It is one of the most common causes of death in adults.
The risk of osteoporosis increases with alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and the consumption of products of high acidity. The disease can be prevented by taking an appropriate amount of calcium and vitamin D in the diet. It is worth remembering that as we get older, the body’s ability to produce this chemical compound decreases. Sometimes, it is necessary to take supplements to fill the gap. In order to have healthy bones, it is also helpful to eat low-fat dairy products and undertake physical activity. Experts say that it is never too late to start workouts with weights.
Deteriorating Eyesight and Hearing
Degeneration of the yellow tissue, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are among the most common sight problems faced by the elderly. No matter how many carrots we eat, one must reckon with the fact that at a certain age our eyesight will become unreliable.
Specialists, however, stress that using an antioxidant rich diet can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. The likelihood of this disease is increased by smoking cigarettes.
The disorders seem to affect women at the same rate as men who have worked in similar environments. However, men who have worked in situations that exposed them to large noisy machinery on a regular basis have been noted to suffer from a higher rate of loss in hearing than women.