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Senior Illnesses And What They Mean To The Care Giver

These days we can expect to live longer than any of our ancestors before us. For example, in the UK, women live to 82 years of age on average, while men live to 78. It's a sad fact of life that as we get older, our bodies become more susceptible to diseases and conditions that that affect our lives and the way we function. These include Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, osteoporosis, strokes, cancer and heart disease. Some of these diseases are curable, some are manageable, and others are terminal. As a carer to an old person, it is advisable to some some background knowledge to the common diseases and conditions of old age.

Looking after an old person who is ill

Watching a loved one who is affected my a serious illness is extremely distressing. Carers are faced with many issues ranging from the day-to-day concerns such as whether or not the person you are caring for has taken their medicine, to much larger, lifestyle affecting decisions such as whether or not you should bring elderly parents to live with you or if a care home or a nursing home would be better option.

Common old age illnesses

Here is a beginners guide to the most common old age ailments.


Over two thirds of elderly people are affected by cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer is an umbrella term for many manifestations of the disease. Some forms of cancer are more common than others. For example, lung and breast cancer are the most common forms as found in elderly people. Skin cancer is also common although often these are slow growing cancers that rarely cause death.

Cancer is by no means a death sentence these days, and there are many treatments and cures available. Many of these treatments are aggressive chemotherapies and often the old are not able to recover quickly form this type of cure.

So how can a carer help? Well any form of cancer must be caught early if a patient is to stand any chance of recovery. So carers, especially those concerned with managing a individuals personal hygiene, will be good position to spot and abnormalities such as lumps and sores that could be more sinister than they see. If you notice anything unusual, or some change in form, you must get it checked out out by a medical professional as soon a possible.


Diabetes is considered by many in the medical profession to be a lifestyle disease as it is often caused by high sugar and fat intakes. However, diabetes in old age is an condition that is caused by the body's inability to secrete enough insulin to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Diabetes is an incurable illness, but it can be effectively treated either by diet or medication in tablet or injection form.

Diabetes itseld does not cause death. However, if can promote a number of other conditions that can be fatal. For example, particular attention has to be paid to wounds in a diabetic, as they tend to take longer to heal and can be a source of infection. Diabetes can also have an adverse effect on the functioning of the heart.

If you are caring for an elderly person with diabetes, the main issue is diet. Diabetics should not eat excessive amounts of sweet food but elderly people tend to ignore this, or not realise what they care eating could cause problems.


Dementia is a very common condition amongst the elderly. Dementia stems from decreasing brain activity caused by degradation and resulting damage to the connections between the brain and nerve endings in the body. The most common of the 100 or so types of dementia are Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies, caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain.

What causes the disease is not known, and there is very little that can be done to treat it once it has taken hold. However, some drugs do hold off the symptoms for a while. The most common form of dementia is known as Alzheimer's Disease. This tends to be the most serious version of dementia and can be extremely frustrating for sufferers because they gradually become more confused. A particularly sad and distressing aspect of the disease is that in the early stages, the victims will know what is happening to them. It can take years for the disease to fully develop (although it can be months), but in the end, it is unlikely that the sufferer will know who you are.

Dealing with a elderly person with dementia requires dedication and patience. They are often prone to wandering behaviour. It's important to treat the person concerned with kindness and respect. However, often, carers of elderly people have to resort to professional care.


Like dementia, this is a disease that affects the nerve cells leading to the brain and like. It's cause is unknown but it is the subject of much scientific research. Dementia tends to affect a suffer's ability to process information whereas Parkinson's primarily disables the body. In its later stages, it can also affect the mind. Parkinsons is characterised by uncontrollable shaking. Like dementia, there is no known cure and drugs only work for a relatively short period of time before be illness takes hold for good.

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