As the days grow shorter, we all may feel a little more lethargic. Yet, chronic fatigue can impact older adults on an ongoing basis. Sometimes, even after a full night’s sleep, chronic fatigue can cause older adults to become drowsy throughout the day, which can also affect their sleep schedule and their mood. Also, in some cases, chronic fatigue may be a sign of a larger issue at hand.
Often times, chronic fatigue can be a result of an older adult’s lifestyle. For example, if the individual has a habit of staying up too late at night or eating and drinking foods and beverages with a high caffeine content throughout the day, his or her sleep schedule could be disrupted, causing the ongoing fatigue. Also, things like alcohol use, too much junk food, and getting too little exercise can cause chronic fatigue.
Additional Causes of Chronic Fatigue
It’s important that older adults and their caregivers pay attention to other potential causes that may trigger fatigue such as medications, illnesses, or even some emotions. Anxiety, depression, or grief can each be an underlying cause of chronic fatigue. Often, these emotions can bring troubling thoughts that keep older adults awake at night, interfering with a normal sleep schedule. Pay attention to mental health and encourage activities that can help manage emotions, such as yoga, journaling, or a creative activity.
There are also certain health conditions that can cause chronic fatigue. In fact, fatigue can be the first sign that something is wrong. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that affects the joints. However, many older adults with rheumatoid arthritis report chronic fatigue as a symptom. Conditions like cancer can also cause chronic fatigue. Look out for illnesses like diabetes, anemia, and sleep disorders as well.
Luckily, there are a few ways seniors can keep their energy levels up during the day:
- Eating whole foods – John Hopkins geriatrician, Alicia Arbaje, M.D., M.P.H. explains, “Packaged, processed foods tend to make you feel sluggish and heavy.” Eating whole fruits and vegetables can help keep older adults’ energy up throughout the day with natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Maintaining vitamin D levels – Vitamin D, found in things like sunlight, is a natural mood and energy stabilizer. However, as we age, our skin becomes less efficient at converting the light into vitamin D. Older adults can try taking a vitamin D supplement to make sure that they are maintaining the proper levels.
- Use vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is another natural energy stabilizer found in things like animal products and nut milk.
- Move more – Even small spurts of active movement throughout the day can help keep older adults’ energy levels up. In particular, starting the day with a morning walk in the sunshine can help older adults get the sunlight they need, which will also help regulate a person’s circadian rhythm.
- Keep a log of current medications – There are many drugs that can also affect energy levels. Keep an up-to-date log of the current medications an older adult you care for is taking, as well as how those medications affect their energy levels.
When to See a Doctor?
If an older adult you love has been experiencing chronic fatigue for several weeks with no relief, it may be best to see a physician to make sure that the issue isn’t more serious than it may seem. The doctor will most likely ask about things such as the older adult’s appetite, daily activities, and sleep schedule.
The treatment will be based on the results of the older adult’s health history, lifestyle, as well as other exams or tests. Ultimately, the doctor may prescribe medication for an ailment that may be causing chronic fatigue, or she or he might suggest lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise.
Nightingale Homecare Can Help!
If you need help managing chronic fatigue, Nightingale Homecare, one of the top caregiver agencies in Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas, has home care services that can help. Our care team can ensure older adults are kept active during the day with engaging conversation and activities, regular physician-approved exercise, and by planning and preparing nutritious meals and snacks. If you’d like to learn more, contact us online or at (602) 504-1555.