Ageing causes different effects, such as physical and mental declines in a person. Knowledge of these effects will help a nursing assistant to provide proper care for the elderly patient.
The following effects are generally seen in all elderly patients:
- Heart size increases and there is a decrease in cardiac output. This reduces the blood flow to the organs. There is also a decrease in the elasticity of blood vessels and reduced blood cell production. Decreased circulation also affects balance.
- Respiratory muscles weaken.
- Bone calcium decreases, and cartilage degenerates.
- Subcutaneous fat decrease and hair and nails grow slowly. Skin becomes thinner and fragile.
- There is a decrease in bladder capacity, metabolic rate, secretion of saliva, peripheral vision and sphincter control.
- Liver function slows down and there is a reduction in the absorption of nutrients.
- Eardrums thicken and there is an increase in wax production.
- There is a decline in the sense of taste, smell and touch.
- Hormone production decreases, sexual responses slow down and there is atrophy of the reproductive organs.
- Hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and obesity are commonly seen in older adults.
- There are memory issues, such as loss of memory, unable to recall events, and reduced cognitive function.
Nursing assistants should encourage the following behaviors in elderly patients for a healthy lifestyle:
- Encourage the patient to eat a healthy diet, as it delays aging. Add seasonings to counter the loss of taste.
- Encourage the patient to exercise regularly, as physical activity such as walking, biking, swimming, postpones the effects of aging. Exercise also reduces the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, and diabetes.
- Encourage the patient to care for themselves and perform activities of daily living (ADLs).
- Encourage cognitive exercises such as reading, writing, solving puzzles, and using a computer, to aid cognitive functioning.