Loss of Function on the Quality of life and Independence, and Quality of life for the elderly Population
Although living longer comes with a price, having a good social relationship, support system, social relationships, and residing in their own abode is what could give seniors independence, happiness, and quality of life. Before discussing how a given loss of function influences the quality of life and the independence of an aging person, it is crucial to define some concepts. These concepts are the quality of life, independence, and activities of daily living, as they will be used in this discussion. Quality of life has varying meanings for different individuals particularly to the elderly population. Quality of life could mean good pension or income, family and friends, being active, being independent, good and safe living conditions, opportunity to learn latest concepts, developing new things, religion, and social relationships among others. Quality of life could mean basic things such as the ability enjoy a delicious meal, to get out of bed, and watch a much loved program on television (Whitbourne, 2011).
Quality of life entails a personal way of thinking about what life means to an individual, and they are not the same. On the other hand, independence for the elderly population means the capability to live independently, whether in their own home or an assisted living residence. It means that they should be able to carry out activities of daily living on their own. The expression "activities of daily living," insinuates the fundamental tasks of daily life, such as bathing, transferring, eating, dressing, and toileting. When people fail to carry out these activities, they require assistance in order to get by. Although people of all ages might have challenges performing the activities of daily living, occurrence rates are higher for the aging than for the younger population.
Aging is related to continuous deficiencies in function across a number of systems, including cognition, motor control, memory and affect. The conventional view about the losses has been that, functional weakening in aging is inevitable because it is a direct result of the brain machinery deteriorating over time. However, there has been the emergence of an unconventional point-of-view, which goes into details of this conventional idea of age-related functional weakening. This new point-of-view contends that as people grow older, brain plasticity developments with pessimistic results begin to take over brain functioning. A set of four principal factors, namely noisy processing, negative learning, decreased schedules of brain functionality, and declined neuromodulatory control, act together to produce a self-reinforcing downward spiral of declined brain performance in older adults. The downward spiral might start from degraded brain activity because of behavioral change, from a failure in brain function because of aging brain machinery, or more likely because of both. These interconnected factors advance plastic alteration in the brain resulting in age-related performance decline (Whitbourne, 2011). This decline will affect how the individual performs the activities of daily living thereby affecting the quality of life and the independence of the individual. Lack of proper intervention may lead to a downward decline, which may result in death if the problem is persistent.
Loss of memory may affect an elderly person's eating patterns. These individual will often forget eating and may not appreciate why it is important to eat. As time goes by, and the situation deteriorates, these individuals may even forget to swallow food and constantly chew or keep food in the mouth without swallowing. This requires that the elderly person be under strict observation of a family member, a caregiver, or a friend who can give them food to eat and remind them to swallow if he or she forgets. However, more often, the elderly people may be forgotten and this may lead to a condition known as Failure to Thrive (FTT), which is a sudden loss of weight that is difficult to reverse (Loue, 2008). If there is no proper intervention to remedy the situation, this will lead to a downward spiral or even result in death.
Sometimes, loss of memory may not be happening in isolation but a depiction of a different condition. According to Loue (2008), it may be a sign that the elderly person is depressed and determining this is crucial for administration proper intervention. The caregiver should take steps to determine the cause of memory loss and if it is depression, one should obtain a physician's help in reversing the depression. However, if one does not deal with the depression, this may lead to poor self-care and loss of appetite leading to FTT. Depression could be because of the loss elderly people feel for losing loved ones over years, and if this goes beyond grieving to regular low desire to eat and poor self-care, there is a need to seek medical intervention. Lack of proper intervention could lead to a downward pathway.
Loss of memory and cognitive impairment, however, is not always a sign of depression, and if the physician interprets that it is a symptom of depression before carrying out formal assessment, depressants may not remedy the situation. During the period of trying to use of antidepressant definitive assessment is delayed and sometimes, formal assessment may never be possible because it requires more than simple screening instrument meaning that the assessment will depend on the availability of instruments. The loss of memory could be a result of acute mental status with a characteristic of being more impaired in the activities of daily living. This may lead to a downward spiral of a worsening loss of memory and impaired quality of life (Brunner and Day, 2009).
As people become older, they become exceedingly sensitive of the issues that relate to memory loss. Although elderly people normally suffer loss of memory, the extent differs from one individual to another. According to Whitbourne (2011), people who are overly sensitive to aging will succumb to the society's threat stereotype of aging leading to detrimental loss of memory. This makes such a person to start on a downward spiral of loss of memory that makes them to be aware of every instance of forgetting, and being pessimistic of their memory's capacity in the future. This low memory self-efficacy affect their actual performance thus, change the quality of life of individuals at old age as a serious loss of memory has grave implications.
The recognition by an elderly person of the fact that he or she has a problem of memory loss can cause anxiety and agitation. This makes a person to hate even excitement as it causes a combative, agitated state known as a catastrophic reaction. This means that the person may not like doing what one could have enjoyed doing earlier, as it gives excitement that may lead catastrophic reaction. During this time, the person may scream, cry, or become abusive, and if the problem persists, the elderly person begins to decline on a down ward spiral. It is imperative for caregivers to identify such signs to design care plans that will help curb the effects of the condition. Such interventions include stroking, rocking, distraction, or listening to music as studies show that they help in alleviating the situation (Brunner and Day, 2009). In order to enhance the cognitive of the elderly, it is paramount to create an environment that encourages independence. The nurse, for instance, should create a predicable environment while using memory aids and cues, which will help to minimize confusion and disorientation thereby giving the patient some sense of security. The nurse should also involve the person suffering from memory loss in physical activities since research has shown that communication and physical activity are useful in slowing down memory loss (Brunner and Day, 2009).
Memory loss may also make it difficult for an elderly person to maintain physical independence in self-care. For instance, the person may not remember to take a bath or change clothes often due to the failing memory. When this person recognizes that he or she has to depend on someone else for help in doing as simple tasks as eating, the person feels agitated and if the problem continues, it may lead to a downward spiral for the person. A caregiver should understand this in order to take measures that will help in enhancing the self-independence of an elderly person. According to Brunner and Day (2009), a caregiver should help the person to remain functionally independence, as long as he or she can through a number of ways. One way of promoting independence in self-care activities is through simplification of daily activities. This is by organizing them into short and achievable steps in order to boost a sense of accomplishment for the patient. Although direct supervision might be useful, it is paramount that the caregiver maintains the autonomy and personal dignity of the elderly person by encouraging the person to make choices that are appropriate and taking part in self-care activities as regularly as possible (Dawson and Stern, 2007).