Older persons often suffer from multiple chronic illnesses and, because of changes associated with ageing, may present atypically when they fall ill. Apart from the interaction of co-existent illnesses with declining physiological reserves that are to be expected with ageing, older persons may also suffer from the effects of multiple medications interacting with each other. The resultant clinical manifestations of illnesses in older persons are often referred to as “geriatric syndromes”.
These include the following:
- Impaired mobility and frequent falls
- Impaired cognition (dementia, delirium, depression)
- Inanition i.e. malnutrition
Apart from the often complex presentations of illnesses in older persons, the impact of such illnesses may result in impaired functional status and a loss of physical independence that lead to increased stress for the patients and their family members. Effective care for older persons thus requires a coordinated approach that often involves the doctors, nurses, allied health personnel (physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and dietitians) as well as the patients and their loved ones.