March is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Month, and National Sleep Awareness Week is scheduled for March 3rd through March 10th this year. Collectively those two dates should serve as reminders to people with elderly loved ones, that one of the best treatments for fatigue is a good night’s rest. Senior home care professionals advise the adult children of seniors to be alert for the signs of persistent fatigue in their senior parents and to take whatever steps may be necessary to reduce or eliminate fatigue symptoms. In Pontotoc and elsewhere, there are a number of steps which can be taken to mitigate the effects of fatigue, and to prevent the onset of the condition.
Causes of elderly fatigue
According to the National Institute on Aging, there are a number of things which can trigger fatigue in the elderly, for instance going through intense emotional periods.
A few possibilities might be:
- The passing of a loved one
- Uncertainty about the future
- Financial problems or personal problems which are causing stress
- Anxiety about some aspect of their life
- Depression due to any one of hundreds of potential causes
- Feeling a loss of control, which in turn can lead to anxiety
All of these emotions can interfere with sleeping patterns and can become so worrisome that a senior person’s whole life is disrupted, and sleep becomes difficult. Sleep, in fact, is one of the primary factors involved in fatigue among the elderly, and just as with younger persons, sleep is very important to feeling refreshed and ready to face the coming day. If your elderly parent has erratic sleeping habits, this might very well be a condition which is contributing to his/her fatigue, so a good way to combat this is to attempt to implement a consistent sleep schedule.
Another thing which can interfere with a good night’s sleep is drinking too much caffeine in beverages such as tea, coffee, or soda, during the latter part of the day. Try to limit your senior loved one’s intake of caffeine, especially during the afternoon and evening hours. Alcohol can also disrupt sleeping habits, and it can cause interactions with medications that your parent may be using. In order to avoid such possible reactions or any interference from alcohol, try to limit your parent’s ingestion of alcohol.
Another dietary impact which can lead to fatigue is excessive eating of junk foods, since these empty-calorie foodstuffs have very few nutrients, but are loaded with sugars and fats. Try to replace these junk food items with nutritious foods that will provide needed energy for a daily routine, and which will help your elderly loved one feel much fresher and more energetic.
Five tips for dealing with fatigue
As you might guess from the preceding discussion, a good diet is essential for dealing with fatigue, and for keeping it at bay. Make sure to limit your parent’s alcohol intake, and help them to avoid drinking beverages with caffeine later in the day. Also, try and replace junk foods with more nutritious and energy-rich foods that will increase rather than reduce energy levels.
Regular exercise is another great way of fending off fatigue, since it automatically provides a boost to the metabolism, and energizes a person. Exercise also releases endorphins into the system which cause a person to feel fresh and happy about themselves, instead of tired and depressed.
Another major culprit which can lead to fatigue is taking extended naps throughout the day. Naps of 30 minutes or longer which your elderly loved one takes, can leave them feeling groggy and can make it much more difficult to prepare for a good night’s sleep later on. When your parent begins to feel like napping at some point during the day, encourage them to do some kind of physical exercise instead, even if it’s a very lightweight activity.
Some elderly people have had great success in keeping a fatigue diary because it helps them identify specific times of day when they feel more or less tired. The information in this fatigue diary can be used to help overcome the groggy periods, so they can be closer to the more energetic periods.
Finally, in cases where your senior parent may feel fatigued because they legitimately have a lot to accomplish in their daily routine, you can offer to help them out and relieve some of their daily burdens, so they don’t become so consistently fatigued. Offloading even a few daily tasks can make a routine much more do-able for an elderly person. As an example, cleaning an entire house every day can be a considerable body of work, but when help is provided, the task can be accomplished much quicker, and with much less fatigue on the part of an elderly person.