Fatigue may sound like a minor problem, but it can have a dramatic impact on your overall health and happiness. When your body and mind are always exhausted, simple self-care tasks can feel impossible. It becomes harder and harder to get out of the house and participate in your hobbies, and even completing a small errand or chore can leave you bed bound for the rest of the day. Fatigue in older adults is a common concern as it’s a side effect of many illnesses. However, you don’t have to simply accept your fatigue. By understanding the most common causes of fatigue in seniors, you can get to the root of the problem and find treatments that help.
Signs of Fatigue in Older Adults
If you’ve been fatigued for a long time, you might forget what it feels like to have a healthy level of energy. You may not even realize that you’re dealing with fatigue because the experience has become so normalized. Being watchful for the signs of fatigue encourages you stay in-tune with your own health.
Knowing the signs will also help you recognize fatigue in an aging loved one. Older adults sometimes try to conceal their health symptoms or manage them on their own, but you can offer support by staying alert.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of fatigue in older adults:
- Complaints of tiredness or sleepiness
- Sleeping an excessive amount at night
- Napping frequently during the day
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Loss of motivation
- Agitation or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
Some decline in energy is to be expected with age, but intense and life-altering fatigue is concerning. Aging doesn’t have to completely impair you or prevent you from living your life to the fullest. You shouldn’t accept these signs and symptoms as a normal part of the aging process. Fatigue is often reversible, so you should do your best to recognize the problem and seek support.
Causes of Fatigue in Seniors
There are many causes of fatigue in the elderly, and many of them are medical in nature. While some causes of fatigue may not be completely reversible, your doctor can likely offer suggestions for how to decrease your fatigue and improve your overall health.
Here Are 11 of the Most Common Causes of Fatigue in Seniors
1. Sleeping Problems
The most obvious cause of fatigue in older adults is difficulty sleeping. Your sleep cycle can change as you age, and some seniors have a hard time achieving the right quantity and quality of sleep. Disorders like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome might play a role, but sometimes, older adults simply struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep.
2. Hormonal Changes
One of the most common causes of sleeping problems in older adults is hormonal changes. Certain hormones may affect your body’s internal clock, and as these hormones change with age, you might find it harder to regulate your sleep cycle.
3. Medical Treatments and Side Effects
Unfortunately, fatigue is a side effect of many medications and treatments. If you’re undergoing treatment for a chronic health issue, some degree of fatigue is likely. For example, older adults with cancer often experience fatigue as a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation. Certain blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and other medicines can increase fatigue as well.
4. Chronic Pain
Fatigue in older adults sometimes occurs as a result of chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other chronic conditions. Your body may tire itself out from trying to manage the pain or inflammation, and living with chronic pain can also lead to mental or emotional fatigue. In some cases, therapy or other mental health services can help to alleviate pain-related fatigue by providing coping skills for pain management.
Anemia is very common in older adults, and it often causes fatigue as well as many other uncomfortable symptoms. Iron-deficiency anemia is caused by a lack of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. If you have anemia, you might feel weak, sluggish, or lightheaded when you try to move around. Fortunately, anemia is typically treatable with medications, supplements, and dietary changes.
Dehydration may be a cause of sudden fatigue in elderly. Hormonal or neurological changes can affect your thirst response, so you might forget to drink enough water. Dehydration is also a common side effect for many medications. Water is absolutely vital for your body, so dehydration can make you feel tired, agitated, or confused.
7. Thyroid Issues
Your thyroid plays a regulatory role in many of your body’s systems, so an underactive thyroid can contribute to fatigue in older adults. Other common symptoms of thyroid issues include weight gain, hair loss, muscle pain, and feeling cold all the time.
Hypercalcemia, or elevated levels of calcium in the blood, can affect your kidneys, heart, and nervous system. This condition is caused by overactive parathyroid glands, and it can cause a number of concerning symptoms in addition to fatigue. Other signs of hypercalcemia include muscle pain, memory loss, confusion, and heartburn.
9. Lifestyle Habits
Your lifestyle has a notable impact on your energy level, so fatigue in older adults sometimes occurs as a result of poor diet or exercise habits. Your body receives energy from your food, so choosing balanced and healthy meals can help you feel more alert and energized. Getting regular physical activity can boost your energy and improve your sleep quality, too.
10. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
While some people experience significant agitation as a result of a UTI, others experience extreme fatigue. Any unexpected shift in energy level in an older adult should be cause for alarm. Fatigue and lethargy are signs of many mental and physical problems, but a lack of energy is prevalent when your body is fighting an infection.
11. Mental Health Issues
Stress, grief, and mental health disorders can all cause physical and emotional fatigue. In older adults, mental health issues often cause physical symptoms, and fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of depression. When you’re struggling with your mental health, you may sleep excessively or feel too tired to go about your usual routine. Stress and anxiety are also common causes of fatigue because they burn your body out and leave you feeling exhausted.
Addressing fatigue through therapy can be very helpful for older adults. Senior counseling is an opportunity to strengthen your coping skills and learn how to view the world more positively. If mental health struggles are at the root of your fatigue, you and your therapist can explore your emotions and find healthier ways to respond to your challenges. If your fatigue is medical in nature, therapy can help you come to terms with the issue and stop it from controlling your life.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides therapy for older adults with fatigue or other chronic health issues. If you or an aging loved one is ready to take charge of your health, contact us today to get in touch with a licensed counselor.