During the natural aging process, elderly adults may experience a wide range of symptoms. However, the development of certain symptoms may indicate a more serious condition. Adult failure to thrive (AFTT) is not a singular disease but the manifestation of a series of symptoms. In seniors, AFTT is seen as a state of decline often associated with functional decline or chronic underlying diseases. As adult failure to thrive becomes more common among the elderly population, loved ones are growing more concerned. Here is a look at some of the most common symptoms of AFTT and what you should do if you suspect that your loved one is suffering from symptoms.
1. Loss of Appetite
A gradual decrease in appetite can be a normal part of aging. Seniors naturally have lower energy levels and engage in less activity which typically means they need fewer calories than their younger counterparts. However, if you notice that your elderly loved one is refusing to eat, it may be due to a more serious condition such as failure to thrive. A loss of appetite can have other detrimental effects on a senior’s health. If your loved one is not eating or drinking enough, he or she may be lacking the essential nutrients needed for proper health. This can result in serious nutritional deficiencies.
2. Loss of Interest in Activities
While you can expect seniors to slow down during their golden years, too much of a slowdown can be concerning. If your loved one is no longer showing interest in familiar activities that he or she once found to be joyful, adult failure to thrive may be to blame. Lack of interest in doing things once found to be fun can also be a sign of depression which is another common symptom of AFTT.
It is not always easy to spot signs of dehydration until it starts to affect the body in a bigger way. Dehydration occurs when an individual loses more water per day than they take in. Having an adequate amount of fluid in the body is crucial to maintain blood pressure, eliminate waste, and regulate the body via sweating. If dehydration becomes severe, it can cause other problematic symptoms such as weakness, confusion, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia.
4. Lowered Cholesterol Levels
Only 25 percent of blood cholesterol is ingested through food and drink. The other 75 percent is produced within the liver. Most people understand that too much cholesterol can be bad for the heart and arteries by not allowing enough blood to get to the heart. However, not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoproteins, known as “good cholesterol,” acts as a scavenger by carrying “bad cholesterol” from the arteries to the liver where it is broken down and passed through the body. Adult failure to thrive can possibly lower this “good cholesterol” which is needed to balance cholesterol levels.
5. Weakened Immune System
The immune system plays a critical role in protecting the body against harmful substances such as toxins, viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. To accomplish this, the immune system is responsible for producing cells and antibodies that help destroy these dangerous substances. However, the natural aging process causes the immune system to become less effective. When your immune system is slower to respond, the risk of acquiring illnesses quickly increases. Seniors with weakened immune systems are also more susceptible to developing autoimmune disorders and take longer to heal. If your loved one is showing symptoms of a weakened immune system, failure to thrive may be the cause.
6. Depressive Symptoms
Seniors experience a wide range of changes that can contribute to the development of depression. While it is normal to feel stressed, sad, or uneasy about a situation, experiencing these emotions long-term is a cause for concern. Depression can interfere with normal functioning on a daily basis. It is not a normal part of aging and does require treatment. If you think your loved one may be suffering from depression, look for common signs such as a persistent sad or anxious mood, feelings of hopelessness, decreased energy, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, or thoughts of death or suicide.
7. Weight Loss
With a lack of appetite and poor nutrition comes inevitable weight loss. Weight loss in seniors is often unintentional and develops as a result of certain health problems or a cognitive impairment. In some instances, weight loss may be caused by other factors, such as a loss of taste and smell. The loss of senses, which is often exacerbated by disease or certain medications, can persuade an elderly loved one not to eat. In serious cases, a loss of taste and smell can actually lead to conditions like anorexia.
8. Impaired Cognitive Function
Like the rest of the body, the brain goes through a number of changes as it ages. Seniors often experience mild symptoms of cognitive decline in old age, such as memory loss and trouble concentrating. It may take longer for your loved one to recall a name or remember something of importance. Declining cognitive function has also been linked to depression and anxiety, as well as changes in mood and personality. You may notice that your loved one is increasingly irritability or aggressive. If you spot these symptoms, consult with a doctor about the possibility of adult failure to thrive.
Contact an In-Home Care Agency
Adult failure to thrive can be a debilitating illness that affects nearly every part of your elderly loved one’s life. The symptoms of this condition can be numerous and can be mild or severe, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause. Having someone to properly care for your aging loved one is important if you suspect AFTT. An in-home care agency can provide you with the services your loved one needs to maintain a high standard of living. In-home care includes a range of services provided in the comfort and familiarity of your loved one’s own home. For more information about adult failure to thrive, contact an in-home care agency today.