Fatigue is a common problem among older adults. There are many possible causes


Linda C. Johnson, Indianapolis, was not prepared for the feelings of fatigue she felt after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Johnson, now 77, initially believed she was depressed. Johnson couldn’t get up in the morning and had trouble getting dressed. She couldn’t even get out of bed some days.

Johnson realized that Johnson was not the only one who had to take care of her affairs. Johnson awoke exhausted, no matter how long she had slept the night before. Even though she did not do much during the day, she felt exhausted.

People would tell me that I was getting older. That wasn’t helpful. She said that this makes you feel helpless and helpless.

Fatigue can be a sign of many diseases that affect older adults, including heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as lung disease, kidney disease, neurological conditions such multiple sclerosis and lung disease. According to a study, it is one of the most common symptoms of chronic illness. It affects between 40% and 74% of those with these conditions. 2021 Review By researchers at the University of Massachusetts.

This is more than just exhaustion from a long day or poor sleep. This is a feeling that your whole body feels drained, regardless of how much or little effort you put in. Renee, a member of a Facebook group for patients with rare blood cancer polycythemia vera wrote that she felt like she had a “drained battery” almost all the time. It’s almost like a dish-rag being wrung out.

“A day when you feel tired” doesn’t mean fatigue. It’s more like a few weeks or months of tiredness, according to Dr. Kurt Kroenke. He is a researcher at the Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, that specializes in medical research and a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.

He and his colleagues Nearly 3,500 patients with dementia were referred to us At a large Indianapolis primary care clinic, 55% of patients complained about their bothersome symptoms. This was second to musculoskeletal pain (65%), and more than back (45%) and shortness (41%) respectively.

Separately, there is a Study 2010. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 31% of those aged 51 or older reported feeling fatigued during the week.

It can have a profound impact. According to a study, fatigue is the most common reason people limit their activity for those aged 70 and over. 2001 Study Yale researchers. Another study has linked fatigue to Mobility impairment, Limitations in the ability to do daily activities for people, or worsening disabilityAnd earlier death.

Many times, older adults who are tired stop being active and become deconditioned. This leads to weakness and muscle loss, which in turn increases fatigue. It can lead to depression and fatigue, said Dr. Jean Kutner. She is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Photo of an elderly woman smiling.
Linda C. Johnson first experienced fatigue in 2020 after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Fatigue is common with many diseases that affect older adults.(Linda C. Johnson)

Johnson devised a plan to stop this from happening after she learned that her lung cancer had returned. Each morning she set small goals. She would get up every morning and wash her face. She’d then take a shower. She’d then go to the grocery shop another day. She would then take a break after each activity.

Johnson has suffered from fatigue for three years, ever since her cancer returned. Johnson said that she is now functioning better because she has learned to manage her time and find things that motivates her. She teaches a virtual class to students who are training to become teachers, and she gets exercise under the guidance of a personal trainer.

What is the best time to be concerned about fatigue in older adults? “If someone is feeling tired but has been doing well, it’s important that they get evaluated,” Dr. Holly Yang, a doctor at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego and the incoming president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, said.

Fatigue can be a sign that something is not right with your body, but it is rarely just one thing. “Usually, there are several things that need to be addressed,” Dr. Ardeshir Hashimi, chief of the Center for Geriatric Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, said.

Doctors should also check your thyroid levels. Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you well-controlled if you have any underlying medical conditions? Are you suffering from an underlying infection or disease? Do you feel chronically dehydrated or do you have an underlying infection? Are you suffering from anemia (a lack of red blood cells, hemoglobin or electrolyte imbalance) or low testosterone levels? Do you eat enough protein? Are you feeling anxious or depressed lately? Are you taking any medications that could be contributing to your fatigue?

“The medication and dosages may be identical, but your body may not be able to metabolize them and eliminate them from your body as well,” Hashmi stated. He noted that these changes in metabolism are common with aging.

There are many possible causes of fatigue that can be addressed. However, there are many possible causes of fatigue. Much of the timeFatigue is not caused by an underlying medical condition.

This happened to Teresa Goodell (64), a retired nurse from Portland, Oregon. Despite being in good health, Goodell suddenly felt tired and short of breath during a December trip to Arizona. She was treated at an urgent care center for asthma exacerbation. Steroids were administered, but it didn’t work.

Goodell soon found herself spending many hours each night in bed, exhausted and weak. Even the simplest of activities would exhaust her. However, none of her medical tests in Arizona or Portland, including a chest Xray, CT scan, blood work and cardiac stress test, showed any abnormalities.

She said that there was no objective evidence to show illness and it made it difficult for anyone to believe she was sick.

Goodell began visiting long-covid websites and chat rooms for people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. She believes she may have post-viral syndrome. Fatigue that is disruptive to daily life is one of the most common signs of long covid. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are many strategies to deal with persistent fatigue. According to Dr. Christian Sinclair of the University of Kansas Health System, physical activity is best for cancer patients. He said that there are many options. He stated that the goal is to “gradually increase patients’ stamina”.

However, too much covid too quickly can lead to “a lot of problems” with long-term covid.post-exertional malaise“Pace your activities. Doing only the most important things when you have the energy and then resting. Dr. Andrew Esch is a senior education advisor at The Center to Advance Palliative Care. He said, “You learn to set realistic goals.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a way for older adults to learn to manage their fatigue. It can also help them adjust their expectations and deal with intrusive thoughts like, “I should have been able to do more.” Management plans for patients with fatigue at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center typically include strategies to improve physical activity, sleep quality, nutrition, and support from loved ones.

Dr. IshwariaSubbiah, MD Anderson’s integrative medicine and palliative care physician, said that fatigue management is all about creating new habits. It is important to realize that this does not happen immediately. It takes time.

We are open to hearing from you about any questions, concerns, or advice that you may need regarding the health care system. Visit khn.org/columnists Send us your tips and requests.

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