The 5 Most Common Illnesses for SeniorsThe 5 Most Common Illnesses for Seniors

Getting sick is always a drag, but many illnesses that are merely unpleasant for the young and healthy can have much more serious consequences for seniors. The first step to preventing a potentially dangerous illness is knowledge. If seniors and their caregivers make a point to know what illnesses they’re at risk of, how to prevent them, and what symptoms to look for when they do occur – they can help seniors live longer, healthier lives.

To avoid the worst, practice prevention as much as possible for these, but also be on the lookout for any symptoms and head to the doctor quickly to get treated.

1. Flu

The flu is an awful, painful experience for anybody who catches it, but for seniors it can be deadly. 90% of flu-related deaths are of people over 65, and they make up half of all hospitalizations from the illness.

The best form of prevention for the flu is something you probably already know about: the flu vaccine. It can decrease a senior’s risk considerably and make them that much more likely to make it through the winter. Even with the vaccine though, be on the lookout for symptoms so you can head to the doctor the moment the flu shows up.

2. Depression

Many people who work in geriatrics know how serious depression and loneliness can be for seniors, but it’s an illness many seniors and their loved ones don’t think to diagnose.  Approximately 20% of people over 65 struggle with depression and the illness often goes untreated.

Depression leads to a number of unhealthy habits, and seniors who don’t take the step to seek out treatment are at risk of neglecting their health or even committing suicide. You can decrease all those risks and help ensure your loved one’s remaining life is more enjoyable in the time they have left if you pay attention to the warning signs and urge them to get help.

3. Pneumonia

Like the flu, pneumonia’s another illness that’s bad for everyone, but it’s more likely to be fatal for seniors.  As the cause of over 50,000 deaths per year in the United States, everybody should take pneumonia very seriously.

Seniors are especially at risk of contracting pneumonia and as such, are the group at the top of the CDC’s list for vaccine recommendations. If you experience any of the symptoms common to the disease, as with the other illnesses on this list, get help immediately.

4. UTI

Urinary tract infections are another health problem common in any adult, but with more severe consequences for the elderly. Due to a weakening of the bladder with age, seniors are more prone to UTIs. Beyond the discomfort common to the infection, UTIs also put seniors at greater risk of developing kidney disease and sepsis.

Additionally, UTIs can cause symptoms that look very similar to dementia, which makes them a challenge to identify and know when to treat. Make sure your loved one drinks plenty of water and keep an eye out for the symptoms that may point to a UTI. If you’re not sure whether your loved one is suffering from dementia or a UTI, bring up both options with your doctor to see what they say.

5. Heat stroke

A nice day in the sun can turn into an emergency room visit for a senior if proper precautions aren’t taken. When summers get really hot, seniors are at risk of heat stroke. It can cause disability or even death if you don’t recognize it quickly and get the victim proper treatment.

When the hottest days of summer start to hit, make sure your loved one drinks plenty of water, wears light enough clothes, and makes use of the A/C or fan when the heat merits it. And know the warning signs to look for and the first steps to take while you’re waiting for help from emergency personnel if heat stroke does occur.

Some seniors don’t want to feel like they’re a burden to their family members and caregivers. Urge them to speak up when they’re feeling any pain or discomfort that might be a sign of a more serious illness, and try to read between the lines to pick up on symptoms they’re not actually saying. Facing the discomfort of admitting a problem now can prevent much more serious discomfort and problems later.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

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