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Introduction

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Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

William Shakespeare (1564–1616), As You Like It

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The ageing (over 65 years) are the fastest growing section of the Australian population. The number of ‘old-old’ (over 85 years) is increasing at an even faster rate.1 Life expectancy has risen to 84.3 years for women and 79.9 for men.2

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The over-65s in 2001 made up 12.7% of the Australian population (13.4% in the US) and in 2013 made up 14.7% of the population. It is expected that this group will make up at least 20% of the population in 2031. A similar trend is expected in the US with 18% in 2040.2

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The over-65s use twice the number of health services per head of population. They account for 25% of all hospital costs and 75% of all nursing home costs. They represent 29.6% of all general practice consultations.3 Many are affected by multisystem disease. All are affected to a greater or lesser extent by the normal physiological changes of organ ageing.

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Ageing is characterised by the following:1

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  • decrease in metabolic mass

  • reduction in the functional capacity of organs

  • reduced capacity to adapt to stress

  • increased vulnerability to disease

  • increased probability of death

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FIGURE 8.1

Establishing rapport and support through the home visit to the elderly patient is an important security gesture

Graphic Jump Location
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Age-associated deterioration occurs with hearing, vision, glucose tolerance, systolic blood pressure, kidney function, pulmonary function, immune function, bone density, cognitive function, mastication and bladder function.

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One of the main contributing factors is the problem of disuse. Encourage exercise, especially walking and water aerobics.

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Ageing and disease

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Degenerative cardiovascular disease emerges with ageing according to the following approximate guidelines:

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Table Graphic Jump Location
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Age
40 Obesity
50 Diabetes
55 Ischaemic heart disease
65 Myocardial infarction
70 Cardiac arrhythmias
75 Heart failure
80 Cerebrovascular accidents

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Deterioration in health and the ‘masquerades'

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Unexpected illness, including mental confusion (one of the major hallmarks of disease in the elderly), can be caused commonly by any of the so-called masquerades outlined in CHAPTER 17:

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  • depression

  • drugs, including alcohol, anticholinergics

  • diabetes mellitus

  • anaemia

  • thyroid disease

  • urinary tract infection

  • neurological dilemmas

    • Parkinson disease

    • cerebrovascular accident

  • infections (e.g. bronchopneumonia)

  • neoplasia

  • giant cell arteritis/polymyalgia rheumatica

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Common significant management disorders encountered in the elderly include:

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  • hypertension

  • ischaemic heart disease and heart failure

  • depression

  • diabetes (type 2)

  • dementia

  • social and physical isolation

  • osteoarthritis

  • disorders of the prostate

  • urinary ...

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