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Understanding the Reasons Behind Fatigue in the Elderly

What Causes Tiredness in Elderly People?

Fatigue can affect individuals in different ways, especially older adults. Although it may be normal, if you always feel tired, you should contact your GP, as this could be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Causes of tiredness can include insomnia when you are not getting enough sleep, lifestyle choices, diet and the condition you may be living with. Your emotional well-being can also have an impact. Here’s a little more information on what may be causing you to feel tired.

Typically, fatigue in the Elderly can be due to receiving medical treatments (such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy) Other causes include untreated pain, recovering from surgery and chronic diseases such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes, liver or thyroid disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Chronic Medical Conditions

Chronic medical conditions are long-term physical conditions. These include diabetes, dementia, heart disease, liver and kidney issues. If you are feeling tired, it can be a symptom of an underlying health condition, so it is essential to contact your GP. Your GP can then conduct a blood test to help diagnose your condition.

It can be daunting when you are diagnosed with a chronic medical condition, but there are ways to treat and help manage your symptoms, including fatigue.

Emotional Exhaustion

Our mental health has an impact on our lifestyle and how we feel. You may notice that when you’re happy, you feel more active, but tiredness tends to kick in when you feel down and emotionally exhausted. Emotional exhaustion can be caused by various factors, including grief, depression, anxiety and loss of independence. You may also find that emotional exhaustion can impact your sleep, therefore adding to fatigue.

Lifestyle Habits

Sleep, diet and staying active can all have an impact on fatigue. As we age, we go through natural sleep changes, and you may find yourself waking up during the night. Adults aged 60 or over are more susceptible to insomnia. According to the National Institute on Aging, “People with the condition have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep,” which can last for days, weeks or years. So, developing healthier sleeping habits may help with fatigue.

What you eat and drink can also contribute towards fatigue. For example, caffeine, sugary snacks and fried, processed foods can impact your digestive system and energy levels. So, choosing a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables can make a difference.

Tips to Reduce Fatigue in Elderly People

You don’t necessarily have to be a gym fanatic or sleep most of the day to help reduce tiredness. You can make small changes to your lifestyle, which can help.

Incorporate exercise into your routine

You may feel that exercise is the last thing that can make you feel less tired; however, it increases oxygen levels in your body and “allows your body to function better and to use its energy more efficiently”, as suggested by Harvard Health Publishing. Ultimately, you’ll feel more energised.

You don’t necessarily need to do an intense workout; something small as a 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost. Start with small exercises and slowly build up to a comfortable time – don’t stretch yourself. You can even join a fitness or aqua aerobics class. Not only will this help with fatigue, but it’s also a great way to socialise.

Sleep routine

Try and stick to the same sleep times and aim for six to nine hours of sleep. As we get older, we tend to find it more difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep at night. So, before bedtime, try to wind down by reading a book or listening to music. Try and avoid long naps, as this can impact your sleep at night. It is also best to avoid screen time before bed. So put your phone away and switch off the TV.

Eat nutritious foods

Eating vitamin-rich foods can also contribute to a good night’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Consuming a high-fibre diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins – while avoiding foods with added sugars- is ideal.”

Specific vitamins, including vitamins B and D, help the body produce melatonin, a hormone that supports sleep. Foods that include vitamin B are leafy greens, eggs, dairy products and legumes. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but of course, sunlight isn’t available all year round. So you can get vitamin D from food and supplements. Supplements are a great way to get the necessary vitamins; however, consult your GP or pharmacist to see if they are suitable.

Keep hydrated

Drinking water is highly beneficial for your overall health. The Sleep Foundation states, “People who are suffering from significant dehydration often find that they feel extremely tired, lethargic or fatigued.” So, make sure you have plenty of fluids. Herbal teas and fruit juices are a great way to keep hydrated. They also give your drink a bit of flavour too. Try and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, as this can also lead to you feeling tired.

Ask for help

If you find that managing household duties is making you feel overwhelmed and tired, or you’re finding it difficult to carry out certain errands, such as the grocery shop, ask for help. If you live close to loved ones, see if they can help with the laundry or washing up. Or when they do their grocery shop, get them to pick a few things for you too.

If you don’t live close to your loved ones, our elderly care can help. Our live in care or visiting care can support you with household duties, accompany you into the community and prepare meals. This way, with a little bit of help, can help reduce fatigue. If you’d like more information on how our carers can help you with fatigue, contact our friendly customer care team today.