Fatigue, characterized by a persistent, implacable feeling of tiredness that usually develops slowly over time, is very common among older adults. This extreme feeling of tiredness and weakness impacts everyone differently and has various causes. In some cases, it might be simply a lack of enough sleep.
So, why do the elderly get so tired? Frequent fatigue might be a symptom of more serious health concerns. For older adults, fatigue or weakness is often associated with health conditions. That means it is important to remain cautious and seek professional medical help when experiencing any new, sudden feelings of fatigue.
That said, here are the seven most common causes of fatigue in the elderly.
Why Do the Elderly Get so Tired?
1. Chronic Medical Conditions
In aged people, continuous fatigue can be caused by chronic diseases. That makes it essential to monitor and report any new signs of exhaustion or weakness to your healthcare provider.
Here are some of the underlying health conditions that may cause fatigue in seniors.
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Anemia is a condition that occurs when the body lacks sufficient healthy blood cells to supply adequate oxygen to tissues, making you feel drained all the time. It is common in aged adults, affecting approximately 10% of individuals aged 65 and above.
The prevalence of anemia increases with age, but it is typically caused by a lack of iron and vitamin B12 or underlying health conditions, such as chronic disease. Generally, the illness can be tested for and treated with medications and dietary changes.
3. Depression and Emotional Stress
Fatigue may occur in older adults going through a challenging moment in their life, such as family stress or death.
Whether an older adult is struggling with family conflict, experiencing a grieving process, dealing with the loss of a spouse, emotional stress can significantly impact their level of fatigue.
Comprehensive approaches such as mindfulness and therapy can help your loved one combat emotional stress.
Dehydration is a common electrolyte and fluid issue among older adults. Since the human body is mainly made up of water, when you don’t have enough in your system, it can cause many issues, including weakness and fatigue.
Dehydration in seniors is typically caused by weakened kidney function or underlying health conditions, such as blood pressure and diuretics.
As a general rule, always encourage your elderly to take water even when not thirsty and eat water-rich food such as soup and fruits.
5. Long-term or Untreated Pain
Living with chronic pain can be incredibly tiring, but unfortunately, fatigue is one of the side effects. Back, neck, and joint pain is common in older adults and is typically caused by arthritis, fibromyalgia, or injury.
The good news is that understanding the root cause of long-term pain can help you better manage its symptoms.
6. Musculoskeletal Weakness
The aging process can lead to loss of muscle and skeletal strength. This may cause weakness and disability in older adults and, in turn, fuel fatigue or make tasks that seem easy, including household chores, harder to accomplish.
Fortunately, muscle loss (sarcopenia) and various bone conditions, including osteoporosis, can be cured with proper diet, exercise, and medication. Make sure to discuss treatment with your healthcare provider.
7. Boredom and Lack of Engagement
As people age, they may suffer from age-related changes that may impact their ability to do the things they love. When options for exercise, outings, and entertainment are limited, it can greatly impact an elder’s quality of life.
They are not working anymore, and due to poor eyesight, they may struggle with reading or watching TV.
In these cases, older adults might not be clinically depressed or tired, but their fatigue occurs because they are incredibly bored. Engaging in social and productive activities that they enjoy, such as volunteering in their community, may help maintain your loved one’s well-being.
Also read: What to get seniors on a senior night
FAQs- Why Do the Elderly Get so Tired?
What Else Causes Fatigue?
Some lifestyle habits can make an older adult feel tired. Here are some of the things that may be draining their energy.
1. Having too much caffeine
2. Stay up too late
3. Eating junk food
4. Drinking too much alcohol
How Can I Feel Less Tired?
Making some changes to your lifestyle can help make you less tired. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Exercise regularly
2. Keep a fatigue diary
3. Stop smoking
4. Try to avoid extended naps
5. Ask for help when you feel overwhelmed
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis or CFS/ME, is a condition where fatigue lasts six months or longer and is not connected to other conditions or diseases.
Older adults with CFS experience symptoms that make it difficult to do regular tasks such as bathing and dressing. Besides severe fatigue that does not ease with rest, CFS symptoms may include pain, memory loss, sleep problems, and dizziness.
When Should I See a Doctor for Fatigue?
If you have been feeling tired for some weeks with no relief, it might be time to seek help from a professional doctor. A healthcare provider will ask questions regarding your sleep, appetite, exercise, and daily activities. They may also conduct a physical exam or order a lab test.
Your treatment prescriptions will be based on your history, exam, or lab tests results. Your doctor may prescribe medication to target underlying health conditions, such as anemia or unusual thyroid activity. In addition, they may suggest that you eat a well-balanced diet and start a workout program.
Fatigue in older adults is mainly caused by physical and mental illnesses or lifestyle factors. In some instances, fatigue might be easy and quick to treat through eating a well-balanced diet or proper exercise.
However, some causes, such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart disease, are serious and might require your loved one to start long-term treatment right away.
The good news is that a professional doctor can help uncover your health issues and diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits to aim at the cause and help you on the road to recovery. When your aging darling one feels more refreshed, they will enjoy a longer life.