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Senior Living Blog

Fatigue in Seniors and When It’s Time to See a Doctor

Posted by Jan Wieder on Feb 3, 2022 9:00:00 AM

You wake up from your nap and stare at the ceiling. It’s work, to move. You hear your partner in the kitchen below. You’re hungry, but you roll over and sleep some more. If you are experiencing a chronic feeling of being run-down, you may be suffering from fatigue. Fatigue is a deep kind of exhaustion that impacts your ability to perform daily life functions. Unfortunately, many adults today are all too familiar with this feeling. Take the first step to wellness and learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatments so you can personalize your plan to combat fatigue.

Village Green Blog Title (9)Fatigue in Seniors and When It’s Time to See a Doctor

At Village Green in Federal Way, WA, we support our residents in a healthy, balanced lifestyle that encourages rest and stimulating activities. We understand that every person’s unique physical and mental health profiles require targeted and thoughtful support. Find your just-right speed with us in Federal Way today!

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is more than being a little bit run down.  Fatigue is profound exhaustion that interferes with activities of daily living. Nearly 40% of Americans report symptoms of fatigue on any given day. More women report signs of fatigue than do men. Characteristics of fatigue include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Achy/sore muscles
  • Headache
  • Slowed sense of time
  • Gastrointestinal Distress
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration

What Are the Types of Fatigue?

Most medical literature divides fatigue into three categories, depending on the length and possible source of the fatigue. The three types of fatigue are:

  • Transient Fatigue- This kind of fatigue lasts over a few days and is usually related to short-term conditions like a stressful period at work, illness, or preparing for an event.
  • Cumulative Fatigue- Cumulative fatigue is sometimes called burnout. Chronic and ongoing circumstances usually cause it.
  • Circadian Fatigue- People appear tired and disoriented when their body expects them to be sleeping. Circadian fatigue refers to a dip in productivity and alertness during a person’s usual sleep time when attempting activity during that window.

Chronic or extreme fatigue usually falls in the category of cumulative fatigue.

Common Conditions That May Cause Fatigue

This is not an extensive list, but many mental, physical, environmental and health conditions may cause fatigue in older adults. Here are a few of the most common conditions that contribute to fatigue in seniors:

  • Anemia:
  • Anxiety
  • Concussion
  • COVID-19
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Emphysema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Flu
  • Grief
  • Heart Disease
  • Obesity
  • Pneumonia
  • Stress

Concerning Signs of Fatigue

Fatigue can be mild or severe. Because it may be a sign of a more serious condition, consult a medical professional immediately if you notice extreme disorientation, cannot function in your normal routine, or if your milder symptoms last longer than two weeks. If you are unable to drive, be sure to secure a ride from a family member, friend, public transport, or ride-sharing app.

Does Mental Health Contribute to Fatigue?

Mental fatigue is just as real as physical fatigue. Anyone who has lived through the last few years knows the exhaustion of extra mental load. Additionally, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms of fatigue like body aches and sleeplessness.

Treatment for Fatigue

If you see your general practitioner, to discuss your fatigue symptoms, they will ask questions about the length, onset, and type of symptoms you are experiencing. If your fatigue is related to another health condition, treatment for that condition may improve your energy levels and mental clarity. In addition to condition-specific treatment, your doctor may discuss lifestyle changes or additions such as these to address your symptoms of fatigue.

  • Healthy Sleep- Sleep hygiene is important to combat fatigue, even if lack of sleep is not the cause of fatigue. A bedtime routine is important for people of all ages. Even older adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If changing your habits doesn’t address sleeplessness, your doctor may prescribe mild sleep aids or the use of natural, over-the-counter options like melatonin.
  • Hydration- Dehydration can present as fatigue. Drink at least 80 oz of water a day to maintain proper hydration and guard against a variety of unpleasant consequences of limited fluid intake.
  • Exercise- Get moving! It’s okay to start small. The most important thing is that you keep at it! Regular exercise supports a healthy weight and reduces symptoms of fatigue.
  • Healthy Diet- Replace empty calories and quick convenience meals with nutrient-dense options like salads and stir-fries will foster a happy gut and increased energy. Too much junk food can contribute to lethargy and fatigue, whereas a nutritionally balanced diet guards against it.
  • Reduced/Time-Limited Caffeine- Caffeine beyond the morning or early-afternoon hours can impact sleep. Limit caffeine to the morning or set a cut-off time for caffeinated beverages and see your sleep quality improve.
  • Meditation/Mindfulness- Practices like meditation or mindfulness have been proven to reduce symptoms of fatigue and boost positive factors such as a sense of well-being. Like exercise, this practice can start small! Consider a guided meditation online or recorded from the library. Shoot for just a few minutes a day to start. 

Village Green Senior Living is the Answer

Village Green Retirement Community senior living serves adults in Federal Way, WA. Our balanced programs, services, and opportunities support every aspect of our residents’ life. Reach out today to learn more about our programs or check out the availability of our various living options. 

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Tags: Senior Health, Senior Living 101