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There are many common characteristics many geriatric patients share. As people age, they often lose some physical and mental function and are at an increased risk for injury and certain illnesses. While many conditions and medical concerns can affect patients of any age, geriatric patients often require different care and testing due to their age.
Heart disease and other cardiovascular problems are a major concern for elderly patients. Advanced age weakens the heart, and arteries become harder due to plaque build-up and loss of flexibility. These issues make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, and other serious problems. Geriatric patients should strive to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and have their blood pressure and heart checked regularly so their doctors can promptly diagnose and treat any heart-related problems.
Older patients often suffer from bone, joint, and muscle-related health concerns, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, that limit their abilities to move and make them more susceptible to injury. Many medications prescribed to elderly people increase the risk of falling, so these patients should be monitored closely and follow safety precautions to prevent dangerous falls that could result in bone fractures. Calcium and vitamin D help promote bone strength, and exercise and stretching help improve flexibility and muscle strength.
Vision and hearing tend to decline with age, so geriatric patients usually require more frequent eye and ear examinations than younger patients do. Wearing glasses or contacts or using hearing aids can help seniors compensate for partial loss of these senses. The elderly often require more frequent dental visits as well due to brittle teeth or gum problems caused by less saliva.
Urinary incontinence is a common concern for geriatric patients. While some bladder control problems are the result of aging, seniors who experience these problems should discuss them with their doctors to rule out underlying age-related serious conditions, such as prostate problems in men. Lifestyle changes and medications can help many geriatric patients gain control of their bladders.
Neurons in the brain responsible for memory start to decline as people age, so many geriatric patients experience problems with memory that may get progressively worse or develop into more serious conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer's. Depression is another major concern among geriatric patients. Many older people develop depression as a result of losing loved ones, health problems, lack of fulfillment they once received from jobs or raising children, or just generally growing older.
Caring for and treating elderly patients requires doctors and other health care professionals to be mindful of their patients' ages. Thinning skin due to aging can make it more difficult for health care workers to draw blood or administer intravenous medications. Doctors who treat the elderly must often explain things more clearly and slowly to make sure their patients understand. Health care practitioners must also be diligent about checking for drug interactions before prescribing new medications for older patients because many of them already take other drugs.