Why Preventive Care
Why We Highlight ‘Preventive Care’ for Elders
As social gerontologist considering various prevention programs for older patients, it is important to separate the well elderly from the frail elderly populations. While physical disability is found in a small percentage of those less than 70 years of age, it is much more prevalent in those over 75 years. 75 years of age and above, depending upon frailty and individual values, prevention usually shifts – from extending life to preserving or extending quality of life. The goal of preventive medicine in older people should be not only reduction of premature morbidity and mortality but preservation of function and quality of life. Prevention in the elderly focuses on the following areas:
- Primary and Secondary Prevention of Disease
- Tertiary Prevention
- Prevention of Frailty
- Prevention of Accidents
- Prevention of Iatrogenic Complications
The choice and effectiveness of a particular intervention or screening tool will depend upon the patient’s physical health, functional ability, cognitive status, as well as patient’s personal choice. Primary and secondary prevention of disease and of frailty are most beneficial for the 60% to 70% of elderly who are considered healthy. These patients have minimal or no chronic disease and are functionally independent. Tertiary prevention of disease and prevention of frailty are important for the chronically ill elderly who generally have one or more chronic disorders, are usually functionally independent or minimally dependent.
Many preventive strategies apply to all elderly persons, such as exercise, immunisations, nutrition and accident prevention. Healthy elderly should visit their primary care physicians at least annually. A regular exercise program and a healthy diet, as well as other disease prevention behaviours will help reduce disease incidence and frailty as well as reduce hospitalisations and functional decline.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among seniors 65 years of age and older. Falls are also the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for seniors, threatening their independence, mobility, and safety which in turn exacerbate into morbidity and mortality. Whether it’s slippery floors, rickety stairs, or electrical cords, some of the most common causes of falls are in the home where you might have a false sense of security. That’s why fall prevention starts with creating a safe living space. A number of the physical conditions and environmental situations that predispose to falls are modifiable. Social Gerontologists like us caring for older patients routinely assess for fall risk, and address modifiable underlying risk factors.
Urinary Tract Infections
UTI risk increases with age, and older people are more vulnerable to contracting UTIs for several reasons, including their susceptibility to infections due to a weakened immune system. UTIs in the elderly are especially dangerous. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections and sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream. UTI infections in the elderly are more common because of underlying problems like a weakened immune system that can’t fight the bacteria, less-efficient bladder emptying, incontinence or bladder obstructions. The best way to treat UTIs in the elderly, or anyone for that matter, is to try to prevent their occurrence.
Bed sores are a common problem in bed ridden patients. Decreased mobility, increased time spent in bed, and altered nutrition make these patients prime targets for skin breakdown. Pressure ulcers have important consequences both for patients and for the health care system. They can lead to severe or intolerable pain, are prone to infection, and are associated with high mortality rates. As elder care experts, one of the most important things we insist to follow appropriate practices from preventing one from developing.
Aspiration pneumonia is the leading cause of death among the elderly. Aspiration means that foods or fluids get into your airway. This can lead to trouble breathing or lung infections such as pneumonia. Any condition that causes trouble swallowing may increase your risk for aspiration. Aspiration precautions are practices that help prevent these problems. We evaluate patients who are predisposed to aspiration and suggest preventive steps.
Good nutrition is very important for all older adults. Malnutrition occurs when a person doesn’t have enough food or doesn’t eat enough healthy foods. It is especially important for older adults who are ill or have been diagnosed with a chronic disease or dementia. Malnutrition is when your body doesn’t get enough nutrients from the foods you eat to work properly. Older adults are more likely to have chronic conditions that put them at risk for malnutrition. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions can impact appetite, make eating difficult, change metabolism, and require dietary restrictions. Periodic nutritional evaluation is a must for elders.
Depression can happen to anyone regardless of age, background or achievements. But the symptoms of elderly depression can affect every aspect of life, impacting energy, appetite, sleep, and interest in work, hobbies, and relationships and it can exacerbate to various complications. It’s important to realise that depression isn’t an inevitable part of getting older—nor is it a sign of weakness or a character flaw. While life’s changes as you age—such as retirement, the death of loved ones, declining health—can sometimes trigger depression, they don’t have to keep you down. No matter what challenges you face as you age, our counselling sections will make you feel happy and hopeful once again.