Author’s note: This post was written at the end of 2013.
Pearl went to the doctor today. Yesterday was rough. We found her on the floor in the living room after breakfast. She wasn’t hurt, but she had slid off of her chair. She was sitting on the floor waiting for help to arrive, didn’t even call out for us. She may only weigh 80 pounds, but it was a struggle to get her seated again. She didn’t have enough strength to help herself.
I realized then that although Pearl hadn’t been complaining of any distress she had been acting differently:
1. Reduced appetite
4. Unsteadiness or loss of balance
5. Change in her mental status
I noticed also that her feet and face were swollen, and her urine had a stronger odor.
At dinner she had finished less than half of her meal then started for her room, and Bam! She hit the floor again. Ron was closer but couldn’t get to her before she hit her head. Not hurt, she said, but she seemed confused as to how she had fallen.
If an elderly person in your care changes overnight as she did, it is easy to think that your loved one is seriously ill. When I worked as a medical assistant, the children of elderly patients would bring them in for an evaluation for nursing home care. The most prominent symptom was usually mental status changes. These changes can be pretty drastic. To us health care workers, the patient was not the sweet smiling person we usually saw in the office. It was easy to see why families were frightened.
We would test their urine and in almost all cases, the patient was found to have a UTI, that’s a urinary tract infection- what we know as bladder infection. However, other types of infection can cause similar symptoms.
Infection can have profound effects on the elderly. I hope that this writing is useful to relieve your concerns when you encounter symptoms such as these in your loved one. Take them to their physician, see if the problem can be easily remedied.