It’s not a surprise that life can be tiring for many seniors living in the Cedar Rapids area and elsewhere. In a figurative way sometimes, but it can also be physically tiring and easy enough for fatigue to creep in especially for people receiving end-of-life care.
Part of it is due to the fact that our bodies do need more rest as we age, and even more rest for those dealing with health conditions or treatments for them. Our caregivers also may need rest too especially if they are living there around the clock.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice works with clients and their families and is familiar with how tiring things can be.
Though they’ve all received training in dealing with fatigue and many have plenty of experience in home health capacities so they know how to pace themselves through a shift or regularly recharge their batteries.
But some caregivers, especially those without any medical or nursing background, may begin to feel overwhelmed, socially isolated, and fatigued, feelings that, in some cases, can lead to other health conditions like depression.
We are always happy to offer suggestions for family members to take steps to get rest when they can, including taking advantage of respite care, where we can provide someone to fill in as needed for a few hours or even a day. Being able to leave and focus on other things can be rejuvenating.
Learning more about fatigue
There are lots of reasons why clients and caregivers can both feel tired. Their health condition, including schedules for medication, can cause disruptions in sleep cycles. Though getting a little less sleep now and then isn’t too bad, a chronic lack of sleep can cause physical and mental problems, including a lack of coordination and a lower immune system.
A caregiver might have their own health conditions they’re dealing with that can make them tired, but not to the degree that they need help and supervision, like the person they’re helping.
The National Institute on Aging said seniors can also be fatigued from all sorts of sources, including some medications that may make them feel sluggish and drowsy, chronic medical diseases like heart disease or COPD, untreated diseases, or even recovery from past conditions. For instance, someone battling cancer may have high levels of fatigue as the body recovers from cancer, the surgery, and any chemotherapy or radiation.
Certain emotions or mental conditions can also cause or aggravate existing fatigue symptoms, including depression, anxiety, grief, or stress.
Even your diet and environment can influence your fatigue levels. Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns as can junk food or not exercising. Likewise, eating better food, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly can all improve the ability to sleep better and feel rested.
Social interaction is another factor that, depending on the person and situation, can get people energized or feeling overwhelmed. Getting out of your home and being with people can generally help.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Although there are plenty of reasons why you or those around you can feel tired all the time, one possibility is a condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or the clinical name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It’s a condition that there’s still some mystery surrounding CFS but is understood to be an autoimmune condition that has behaviors similar to fibromyalgia. Yet where the latter condition is known to cause pain in nerves and joints, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can cause a constant need to sleep, general exhaustion, dizziness, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating.
Health care professionals won’t consider this a possibility until a patient reports feeling exhausted for at least six consecutive months, and that no other remedies have been helped.
Although it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, there are still some unknowns about how CFS is contracted and what triggers its appearance in the body. It may be related to allergies, genetics, environmental factors.
Because research into this topic is fairly new, some data isn’t necessarily complete to draw firm conclusions. For instance, the most common group to be diagnosed with CFS is women between the ages of 40 and 50, at a rate of four times more than men.
Health officials caution that there may be data missing. Women are more likely to go to the doctor if their fatigue is continuous. Many men may dismiss the outdoor aches and are unlikely to go to the doctor.
Or, a woman in that age group may start to feel affected when they become a caregiver and the condition is triggered or caught somehow due to stress, lack of sleep, or the other possible risk factors.
Even though this is a new condition, there are some useful resources about CFS online, including different methods to assess whether you may have CFS or something else (but check with a professional.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a variety of resources, including organizing ME/CFS International Awareness Day on May 12 each year.