Physical Care of the Elderly (2022)

09 FebPhysical Care of the Elderly

Posted at 10:36hin Geriatric Nursing by admin


The body gradually changes over time as we age. These changes are expected and usually depend on family patterns of aging or lifestyle choices made throughout the lifespan. Changes that are a result of a pre-existing medical condition are not considered to be a part of healthy aging. Most of the time, normal age-related changes on the physical level include the following:

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Table of Contents

Age-Related Changes in Skin, Hair and Nails

Changes in the skin are the most visible signs of aging. Since it serves as a barrier from the external environment, skin protects us and keeps our internal organs intact. However, environmental factors, nutrition and genetic makeup cause the skin to sag and lose elasticity as we age. Through time, the outer layer of called the epidermis thins and the pigment-containing cells called melanocytes decrease. This makes aging skin look pale, clear and thin. Large pigmented spots may appear on areas exposed to the sun and the skin’s elasticity will be reduced, making it leathery and saggy. Bruising, bleeding and cherry angiomas are also common among older adults because of fragile blood vessels. Even a simple blow to the skin can tear or bruise it. Older adults are advised to be extra careful in their everyday tasks, especially when dealing with heavy objects.

The skin has several layers, each with various functions. The sebaceous glands that produce oil for skin moisture gradually decrease, usually beginning after a woman’s menopause and for men over the age of 45-50. Dryness and itchiness are very common, resulting in a greater susceptibility to different skin disorders. The subcutaneous fat layers will become thinner over time. This increases the risk of skin injury because of less insulation and padding that subcutaneous fat provides.

Effects of Age-Related Changes in the Skin, Hair, and Nails

Skin injury is common among older adults, along with thinning hair and nails. Since the protective fat layer gradually lessens and becomes more fragile, every wrong move an individual makes can significantly affect his/her integumentary system. Other than skin tears, bruising and bleeding, hair loss is apparent, and nails tend to become brittle. It is very common to see older adults who are bald and have broken nails.

(Video) An Elderly Patient's Itinerary

Consequently, rubbing or pulling the skin, hair and nails can cause minor injuries to older adults. Since aging skin repairs slowly, pressure sores are common among the disabled or those with a sedentary lifestyle. Because these changes can affect the sense of touch, vibration, pressure, heat, and cold, it is no wonder that the elderly experience various skin problems throughout their later years.

Age-Related Changes in Oral Mucus Membranes

As an individual ages, several body functions start to decline. Cellular reproduction, blood microcirculation, metabolic rate and tissue repair all tend to slow down. These essential life processes can affect different parts of the body including the oral mucus membranes. As for the oral soft tissue, the epithelium, mucosa, and submucosa thin. Taste bud function declines as does the size and number of sebaceous glands on the cheeks. Furthermore, foliate papillae and lingual varices increase. These are the main reasons why nutritional deficiencies among the elderly are so common.

According to recent studies, a decrease in salivary flow is not purely the result of aging. However, certain medications can affect salivary output, leading to digestive upsets, poor retention of dentures and the diminished ability to chew. The dryness of the mucosa makes it more susceptible to frictional irritation from dentures. Most elderly have a toothless mucosa that is frequently thin and blanches quickly. This is a reflection of a systemic disease, a nutritional disturbance or a side effect of a maintenance medication.

Moreover, the tooth enamel of an elderly person becomes less permeable over time. Although older adults, teeth become brittle, and the rate of the secondary dentine formation still continues at a slower rate. Tooth wear is a normal age-related phenomenon, often caused by parafunction, erosion or abrasion, mostly gastric, dietary or environmental factors.

Systemic Effects of Aging Concerning Oral Mucus Membranes

A decline in cell-mediated response and the number of circulating lymphocytes leads to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases and a decrease in the defense against infection. Any steroid treatment for an autoimmune disease can complicate a dental treatment. Aging also involves a degenerative arterial disease which is visible in the vessels of the oral mucosa, making wounds heal slowly. A decrease of muscle tone even affects chewing strokes and results in a longer chewing time. Several reports showed that this phenomenon causes an abnormal lower jaw movement and a resulting loss of one’s natural teeth.

As an individual ages, several mucosal diseases take place. This includes oral cancer, pemphigus, candida or a yeast infection, lichen planus, herpes zoster and benign mucous membrane pemphigoid. Nutrition is often a huge factor in the occurrence of these diseases. Since some older adults have decreased access to nutritious foods, nutritional deficiency can significantly affect the oral mucosa.

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Age-Related Changes in Elimination

Digestive and urinary disorders are the usual health problems faced by older adults. Despite the fact that elderly individuals have more time to relax and enjoy their lives, problems with digestion tend to occur all of a sudden. One of the most common problems with aging individuals is constipation. As people get into their 60s, bowel habits change. Painful and infrequent bowel movements are associated with hard and dry stools that can lead to hemorrhoids and other health-related concerns. These variations in the digestive system are brought on by a decline in muscle contractions, which causes the food to move more slowly through the colon. When food movement slows down, waste absorbs more water, leading to constipation and difficulty removing waste from the bowel.

Constipation among older adults is also caused by daily medications. Anti-hypertension drugs are just some of the drugs that can slow down bowel movement. Aside from this, inactivity can exacerbate constipation, in particular in those elderly individuals with existing medical conditions like diverticular disease, ulcers, arthritis and many others. A sedentary lifestyle can make a person feel constipated and allows other complaints like bloating, cramps and abdominal pain to occur. The best thing to do in this situation is to keep digestion running smoothly through proper diet, exercise, hydration and frequent visits to the doctor.

Changes in the Kidneys and Bladder

The kidneys and the bladder are the two major organs in the urinary system. The kidneys filter blood and remove waste or extra fluid from the body. They also help control the chemical balance of the body to make other organs more functional and efficient. However, as time passes, these organs change and their ability to function effectively declines. There will be a gradual decline of kidney tissue, along with the number of filtering units called nephrons. Nephrons are responsible for filtering waste materials from the blood, and they have a huge role in keeping it clean and free of pathogens. If they decrease in size and the blood vessels harden, the kidneys will not be able to perform their function as well, causing some health issues.

Furthermore, changes in the bladder wall will become apparent as we age. The bladder becomes less elastic and cannot hold as much of urine as before, causing urinary incontinence. The urethra in women can become blocked due to weakened muscles that cause the vagina or bladder to fall out of their normal position. Men with an enlarged prostate gland may also have a blocked urethra. The only way to solve this problem is to undergo a common surgery to promote proper urine output.

Activity and Exercise Among Elderly Adults

A number of factors cause an older individual to limit his/her physical activity. The most common concern in the aging is brittle bones in both the arms and legs. Basically, as we reach 30, bone marrow gradually disappears and calcium production is reduced. Bone marrow is the soft and spongy tissue found inside the large bones responsible for the production of platelets, and red and white blood cells. Changes in bone mass and bone marrow structure can put an elderly at the risk for infection, osteoporosis and other bone-related health issues. In fact, it can change his/her performance of routine day-to-day activities since the bones become frail and brittle over time. However, by limiting daily activities, an older adult becomes more sedentary and experiences its negative impact as well.

Energy Consumption in Older Adults

An individual’s minimum daily energy need comes from the resting metabolism rate or BMR (basal metabolic rate). However, BMR changes over time depending on gender, age and lifestyle choices. BMR starts to decline already after the age of 20 and continues to do so until we die, at a gradual pace of 1-2% per decade. The reason for the declining BMR is the reduction of active muscle mass and increased inert fat deposits. This is caused by the overall decline in cellular metabolism. Thus, food intake must be adjusted accordingly. Diet supervision is crucial as we age because we still need to ingest the necessary vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, but from fewer calories as before to avoid weight gain.

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Aerobic Performance in Older Adults

Older adults often have problems with aerobic performance due to the fact that the maximal oxygen intake of the body declines, especially around the age of 65 onwards. This gradual decline can be caused by limited physical activity, as older adults become more sedentary over time. However, even athletes experience a reduction of vigor as they age.

Metabolic Function in Aging

Several hormonal control mechanisms work less efficiently in older individuals. For instance, the thyroid and pancreas are affected by a decreasing number of secreting cells, and the ventricular muscles experience a decrease in catecholamine receptors. These hormonal changes can result in diabetes and myxedema, which can then be a path to obesity, depression, and poor cold tolerance.

Risks of Exercise

The risk of a cardiac emergency is high when an older person is exercising without previous experience and an active lifestyle. Some physicians believe that the elderly who intend to start exercising at an older age should go through an exhaustive preliminary screening such as an exercise electrocardiogram. This is desirable, especially when the individual plans to embark on strenuous competitive training. However, every older individual who wants to exercise should observe certain precautions. The recommended dose of exercise should not leave an elderly overwhelmingly tired because the normal recovery process is slow. Some exercises like running or jogging should be substituted with walking to minimize stress on the knees.

Age-Related Changes in Sleep and Rest

Sleep patterns change as we get older. Other than physical changes, people in their later adulthood tend to have a difficult time falling asleep, and they have a harder time staying asleep as they age. Although research tells us that sleep does not decline with age, several seniors are still complaining because of changes in their sleeping pattern.

Sleep has multiple stages including deep sleep, dreamless periods of light sleep and occasional periods of active dreaming or REM sleep. This cycle is continuously repeated several times at night, but older people spend more time in the lighter stages than in deep sleep. With aging individuals, continuous sleep tends to become harder, making them stay awake at night and getting up early in the morning. Total sleep time is slightly decreased from 8-9 hours to 6.5 to 7 hours per night. It is also harder to fall asleep and spend more time in bed. In fact, the transition between sleeping and waking becomes more abrupt, making the older people feel that they are they are sleeping lighter than before. The elderly also wake up more often at night and spend less time in deep sleep because of anxiety, nocturia, discomfort or pain from chronic illnesses.

Difficulty in sleeping can be very annoying. Chronic insomnia is often the cause of depression and auto accidents. Since older adults sleep lighter and wake up more often at night, they feel sleep deprived, even if the total sleep time does not change that much. Moreover, sleep deprivation can cause confusion and other types of mental issues like restless legs syndrome, hyper insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

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Older adults who experience such problems should consult a sleep specialist before taking any medications on their own. Antidepressant medicines can be helpful in alleviating depression, and this can also relieve sleeping problems, but they should only be taken under the strict supervision of a licensed physician. This is also applicable to a mild antihistamine. Nevertheless, a healthy diet and regular exercises can also have a huge impact on improving the quality sleep for older individuals.


What are the physical needs of the elderly? ›

Even the older adults in the last stages of their life have physical needs like maintaining the hygiene of the oral mouth, nutritional needs, routine hygiene care, bowel and bladder care, and adequate sleep.

Why is physical health important for elderly? ›

Benefits of Physical Activity

Helps maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones. Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.

Why is it important to care for the elderly? ›

Old age is a sensitive phase; elderly people need care and comfort to lead a healthy life without worries and anxiety. Lack of awareness regarding the changing behavioral patterns in elderly people at home leads to abuse of them by their kin.

Why are physical needs important? ›

Your physical body- and health needs are very important. You must listen to your body and become aware of what it is that your body needs. When we are unhealthy, tired, stressed or sick we are not happy campers. We can also not think clearly and communication can become problematic.

What are physical needs in care? ›

6) Practical care at end of life – Physical needs
  • Oral and mouth care. To make the person comfortable if they are not drinking well.
  • Nutrition. ...
  • Hygiene. ...
  • Pain relief. ...
  • Bowel and bladder care. ...
  • Positioning This is for comfort and to allow the person to be active if they are able but to rest when they cannot participate.

How do physical changes in the elderly affect the quality of their lives? ›

With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability and balance.

What benefit can older adults expect from physical activity? ›

Older adults should do some type of physical activity every day. It can help to improve your health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Speak to a GP first if you have not exercised for some time, or if you have medical conditions or concerns.

What is the best way to care for the elderly? ›

Caregivers' Survival Guide: How to Care for an Elderly - YouTube

How can we keep our elderly strong? ›

Participate in aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or aerobic classes at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. Participate in exercise that helps with strength, balance, and flexibility at least two hours per week, such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and isometric weightlifting.

How do you promote a patient's physical health and wellbeing? ›

  1. Surround with a healing environment.
  2. Nourish with good food.
  3. Beat loneliness with human interaction.
  4. Offer activity and encourage physical movement.
  5. Provide information and psychological support.
  6. Focus on family-centred care.
  7. Ensure aftercare and support the wider community.
9 Sept 2019

How do you treat elderly with care and respect essay? ›

How to show respect and appreciate elders?
  1. Spend time with elders: Many seniors feel lonely if they do not have a working social schedule. ...
  2. Be polite: Being polite to the elder person is a key to showing respect. ...
  3. Discuss traditions and family history: Family history explains life successes and stronger family bonds.

What is the meaning of elderly care? ›

Elderly care, or simply eldercare (also known in parts of the English-speaking world as aged care), serves the needs and requirements of senior citizens. It encompasses assisted living, adult daycare, long-term care, nursing homes (often called residential care), hospice care, and home care.

What is an example of physical needs? ›

In order to sustain ourselves physically, we need such things as food, clean water,shelter, sleep, physical movement, and so on. These needs are understood by virtually everyone as incontrovertible. If you don't get them met, you'll die.

How do you meet your physical needs? ›

How to Meet Your Physical Needs
  1. Check-in with your body.
  2. Get enough sleep and rest.
  3. Stay physically active regularly.
  4. Go for regular physical checkups.
  5. Seek medical help when needed.
  6. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  7. Drink enough water.
  8. Practice good hygiene.
4 Feb 2022

What is physical care? ›

Physical self-care includes basic nutrition, hydration, and exercise practices. A healthy body responds to the unavoidable stress in life better than an unhealthy body (Davis et al. 2008 ).

What are the 5 basic physical needs? ›

Physiological Needs

Food, water, clothing, sleep, and shelter are the bare necessities for anyone's survival. For many people, these basic needs can not be met without the aid of charitable organizations.

What are two examples of physical needs being met of people you support? ›

Rest, relief of pain, personal hygiene and the ability to eliminate body waste are also physical needs. These needs must be met before the person can think about their other needs.

What are physical needs in health and social care? ›

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, basic and higher level needs, • Physical needs: necessity of food, water, sleep, shelter and warmth, exercise, safety and security • Intellectual needs: mental activity, learning, achievement • Emotional needs: importance of relationships, affection, love, self-concept, respect • Social ...

How important is the aging process? ›

From a public health perspective, aging is also the critical risk factor for a variety of human pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, many forms of cancer and metabolic disease/type II diabetes, which have become much more prevalent in the elderly.

What is physical aging? ›

Physical aging refers to structural relaxation of the glassy state toward the metastable equilibrium amorphous state, and it is accompanied by changes in almost all physical properties.

What are the physical changes that affects the nutritional status of the elderly? ›

Nutrition As We Age: Physical Changes in Seniors

slower metabolism. declining appetite. less lean body mass. shrinking bone density.

How do you motivate the elderly? ›

5 Ways to Encourage Seniors
  1. Encourage few and manageable goals.
  2. Encourage affirming self-identity.
  3. Encourage technologies.
  4. Encourage the feeling of usefulness.
  5. Encourage adaptive, flexible coping skills.
19 Sept 2020

How does physical activity improve health? ›

Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.

How much physical activity do adults need? ›

Each week adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity, according to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. We know 150 minutes of physical activity each week sounds like a lot, but you don't have to do it all at once.

How much should elderly exercise? ›

How much activity do older adults need? According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PDF, 14.5M) you should do at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or fast dancing.

What are the basic ways of caring for the elderly at home? ›

12 Ways to Care for An Older Adult Loved One
  • Visit Often. Your loved one needs social interaction with you. ...
  • Check Medications. Be sure that your loved one has adequate supplies of their medications. ...
  • Hire Help. ...
  • Make Home Modifications. ...
  • Talk About Finances. ...
  • Take Care of Paperwork. ...
  • Watch for Driving Issues. ...
  • Keep Them Active.
22 Jun 2022

How do you take care of elderly parents at home? ›

How To Take Care Of Elderly Parents At Home
  1. Share care. ...
  2. Use adult day care. ...
  3. Hire free or low-cost companion care. ...
  4. Check out your backyard. ...
  5. Get creative with financial tools. ...
  6. Investigate the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits. ...
  7. Moving in with a relative, friend, or neighbor. ...
  8. Shared family and paid caregiving.
29 Nov 2020

How do you overcome weakness in the elderly? ›

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Keep a fatigue diary to help you find patterns throughout the day when you feel more or less tired.
  2. Exercise regularly. Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. ...
  3. Try to avoid long naps (over 30 minutes) late in the day. ...
  4. Stop smoking. ...
  5. Ask for help if you feel swamped.

Why is effective care important? ›

Defining 'effective'

your care, treatment and support achieves good outcomes, helps you to maintain quality of life and is based on the best available evidence.”

What are 10 recommendations you would make to an older person to maintain their body as healthily as possible? ›

Consider helping your aging loved one incorporate these 10 geriatric care tips to help improve their overall health and wellness.
  • Eat healthy. ...
  • Focus on prevention. ...
  • Stay informed on medication management. ...
  • Get some sleep. ...
  • Remember cognitive health. ...
  • Screen for vision changes. ...
  • Socialize. ...
  • Stay physically active.
24 Feb 2022

What are some strategies for older adults to keep mentally and physically stimulated? ›

Just as the body needs physical activity and stimulation to stay healthy, the brain needs stimulation to stay sharp and avoid cognitive decline as we age.
1. Play Mind Games
  • Reading and writing. ...
  • Learning a new language. ...
  • Playing an instrument. ...
  • Playing puzzles and games.
14 Dec 2020

What do the elderly need most? ›

When looking at what services do seniors need most, mobility assistance often sits at the top of the list. Whether it's help moving around during an errand out or within their residence, keeping seniors safe begins with making mobility issues a priority.

What are elderly social needs? ›

The social needs of older people are diverse. They focus on both the intimate and the peripheral members of their networks. When satisfying social needs, reciprocity is important. The feeling of connectedness to others and to a community or neighbourhood contributes to wellbeing as well as a feeling of independence.

What are the 5 basic activities of daily living where a person needs assistance? ›

The basic ADLs (BADL) or physical ADLs are those skills required to manage one's basic physical needs, including personal hygiene or grooming, dressing, toileting, transferring or ambulating, and eating.

What are the needs of an older person Ireland? ›

The needs of an older person to include physical, social, emotional, psychological, recreational, financial, environmental and spiritual. Maslow's hierarchy of need pivotal in all learning about any client group. Detailed work on all these needs can contribute in large part to the 40% Project assessment.

How do you provide personal care to the elderly? ›

Personal care may include:
  1. Bathing and showering, including bed-baths.
  2. Applying lotions and creams as required.
  3. Dressing and getting ready for bed.
  4. Oral hygiene.
  5. Applying make-up, and hair care.
  6. Support with shaving.
  7. Foot care, especially if you are diabetic need to be extra vigilant with your feet.
15 Aug 2022

How can we take care of the elderly? ›

Caregivers' Survival Guide: How to Care for an Elderly - YouTube

How do we care for the elderly? ›

12 Ways to Care for An Older Adult Loved One
  • Visit Often. Your loved one needs social interaction with you. ...
  • Check Medications. Be sure that your loved one has adequate supplies of their medications. ...
  • Hire Help. ...
  • Make Home Modifications. ...
  • Talk About Finances. ...
  • Take Care of Paperwork. ...
  • Watch for Driving Issues. ...
  • Keep Them Active.
22 Jun 2022

Who should take care of old people? ›

In my opinion it is a family responsibility, in the very first place to take care of their elders when they get old. After that government and society should take steps that old people and old homes get all the proper care to live healthy life. The old people have spent all of their lives for their families.

Why social activities are important for elderly? ›

It lowers the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Studies suggest that staying socially active is an effective way to keep your brain healthy for longer. Connecting with others regularly can keep your mind engaged and working well.

What physical changes occur in old age? ›

Your bones, joints and muscles

With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability and balance.

What are the activities of daily living elderly? ›

Activities of daily living refer to the basic skills needed to properly care for oneself and meet one's physical needs in six areas: eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, continence and mobility.

What is the 12 activities of daily living? ›

All 12 activities include, maintaining a safe environment, communication, breathing, eating and drinking, eliminating, personal cleansing and dressing, controlling body temperature, mobilising, working and playing, expressing sexuality, sleeping and dying.

What are daily living skills? ›

Daily Living Skills are skills you use in your everyday life. They are activities in your home, at school, work or in the community. Things like cooking, cleaning, using money, exercising or getting around are considered Daily Living Skills. Interchange can support you with your Daily Living Skills.

Why is it important to protect and promote rights of elderly? ›

Respect for older people's rights benefits society as a whole. Violations of the rights of older people lead to exclusion, poverty, and discrimination of older people. Yet, older people make key contributions to any society through their experience and wisdom.

What is the important roles and functions of the nurse in the care of older persons? ›

Nurses have a critical role in providing quality and safe aged care that includes: contributing to clinical governance systems, upholding older peoples' rights to dignity, respect and autonomy and making care decisions consistent with their values and goals; and delivering quality, safe care irrespective of care ...


1. Care of patient with elderly PPT
(Snehal Patel)
2. Therapeutic diets and physical activity for the care of elderly patients. Al-Jawharah Al-Abdulkarim
(Ahmed A Rahman)
3. Understanding the Normal Aging Process
4. Clinical examination of elderly patients
(Medic Fuel)
5. Ch. 4: Bathing & Dressing (Caregiver College Video Series)
(Family Caregiver Alliance)
6. Insider - Elderly Care
(Alpro Official)

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