An Innovative Approach to Combating Illness
“You’re just getting old.” Have you ever heard this, said or thought this about yourself or a loved one when referring to feeling tired? If so, then you’re not alone. Most people think fatigue is a natural part of aging. However, according to a study published in 2007 in The Journals of Gerontology, fatigue may be an indicator of other illness, and is not a normal part of aging.
The study, done by researchers at Columbia University, urges physicians to take complaints of exhaustion among the elderly seriously. The 2,130 study participants were evaluated at a baseline, and were checked on every 18 months for a six year period. The average age was 74, and 20% of the participants were older than 80. The majority were women.
- A lack of energy (or anergia) was more common in women than men. Twenty-two percent of the women reported having a lack of energy, compared with 12% of the men.
- People with a lack of energy had higher death rates than those who did not have anergia during the study period.
- Those with a lack of energy were more often not married (21% compared to 13%) than married, and older.
- Lack of energy was linked to poorer reported health and physical function, such as being able to walk fewer blocks before needing to rest and more limited ability to perform activities of daily living.
- Having lack of energy also was more likely to be linked to having joint problems, needing to take pain drugs, urinary incontinence, hearing problems, depression, and social isolation.
- People with a lack of energy went to hospitals more often than those who were not exhausted, which included trips to the emergency room, office visits, and all home care health services.
Study author Mathew Maurer, MD, says doctors need to listen beyond complaints of fatigue. “When elderly patients complain they’re tired, most doctors say, ‘yeah, well, you’re old,” says Maurer in a prepared statement. They tell their patients that feeling listless is an expected part of aging, but there are reasons people are tired and they need to be investigated. For clinicians, the message from our study is that a lack of energy is widespread in the elderly, but it’s not normal.”
In background information published with the findings, study authors write that a lack of energy makes up what they call a “geriatric syndrome,” like memory problems or falling. A lack of energy may also be associated with heart disease, problems with the kidneys or lungs, depression, arthritis, and anemia.
The findings are published in the Journal of Gerontology.
The Role of Depression
A major contributor to fatigue among seniors, according to a report in Social Work Research, is depression stemming from social isolation.
Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. But only 10% receive treatment for depression. The likely reason is that the elderly often display symptoms of depression differently. Depression in the elderly is also frequently confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the medicines used to treat them.
An Innovative Solution
Based on these findings, Acti-Kare worked to create a program to combat some of the big precursors to fatigue, including: depression, loneliness, social isolation, boredom, lack of physical movement, poor diet, and loss of purpose. In order to create an effective program that was specific to aging clients in the home, we gathered a team consisting of a Registered Dietician, Physical Wellness Instructor, and a Master’s level Geriatric Care Social Worker. The results were compiled to create the Acti-Vate™ program. Acti-Vate™ is a holistic program targeting the mind, body and spirit with the goal of elevating mood, increasing energy levels, improving range of motion and flexibility, preventing falls, and improving nutrition.
The Acti-Vate™ program is included, free of charge, to all of Acti-Kare clients. Caregivers undergo a special training to implement & engage seniors through activities and exercises similar to an Activities Coordinator. Activities have a strong emphasis on reminiscing on positive memories, participating in fun crafts and games, and exercising the mind through recall, perception and judgement. Contact us for more information, and a no-obligation consultation.