Anemia in Seniors: What Caregivers Should Watch For

Signs of anemiaIt’s estimated that one in every ten people over the age of 65 have anemia, and the older someone gets, the more common anemia becomes. If left untreated, anemia can cause severe symptoms such as shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, making the caregiver’s role in identifying anemia symptoms all the more important.

Let’s delve deeper into anemia and how it impacts a senior’s health.

What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition where someone does not have enough red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. So, when someone is anemic and has low red blood cell counts, their tissues and organs are not receiving enough oxygen and cannot function properly.

Causes of Anemia
There are many potential causes of anemia, some of which are more common in older adults, further increasing their risk of anemia:

  • ulcers
  • colon polyps or colon cancer
  • blood disorders (sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, or cancer)
  • a diet lacking in folic acid, iron, or vitamin b12
  • inherited disorders
  • metabolic disorders

Symptoms of Anemia
One of the biggest problems with anemia detection is that many of its symptoms are common in those who are older, and it can be hard to distinguish them from anemia. This is why caregivers must be observant and watch for the presence of multiple anemia symptoms or symptoms that are present when it does not make sense, for example, being cold when outside in the summer.

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • feeling cold
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • shortness of breath

Anemia is diagnosed through a physical exam and blood tests, which makes the role of the caregiver in discussing concerning symptoms with a general practitioner an essential step in the diagnosis of this condition.

The Importance of Diet and Supplements for Anemia
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the primary cause of anemia is a deficiency in iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid, with iron deficiency on its own accounting for 15-30% of all anemia cases in the elderly.

Because of the complications of an unbalanced diet, in-home assistance plays a vital role in ensuring that the senior is consuming a balanced diet with an adequate amount of Folic Acid, Iron, and Vitamin B12.

Additionally, supplements offer another way to ensure that a senior gets enough of these compounds. However, it is important to check with a doctor before beginning supplements to ensure that they will not cause any adverse reactions due to interactions with other medications. A doctor can also perform blood tests to determine if additional supplementation is needed, or if there is another cause of the anemia.

The Risk of Untreated Anemia
Anemia left untreated can cause severe complications, including heart failure, extreme weakness and fatigue, and poor immunity. Because of these complications, in-home caregivers, CNAs and Home Health Aides need to watch for the signs of anemia and maintain regular doctor’s appointments where anemia can be checked for. Performing these simple maintenance acts can go a long way in preserving a senior’s health.

Allcare Home Health CNAs and Caregivers are trained to monitor for symptoms that should be checked by the client’s health care provider. Call us today to schedule a new client in-home assessment.

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