For all of the advances in senior health care that have allowed older Americans to live happier, healthier lives, we are still faced with a frightening preponderance of disorders— both common and uncommon—that have a dramatic effect on the brain. Alzheimer’s, while one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions, is just one of many such diseases that slowly eat away at the memories, capabilities, abilities, and quality of life.
As the brain is the control center of the body, any trauma it suffers can bring an exhausting list of possible side effects that range from the subtly progressing to the immediate and easily recognizable.
If your loved one has suffered significant head trauma, or if there is a family history of brain-related disease or diseases, understanding the various causes and symptoms of the myriad diseases and disorders is the first major step in recognizing it when you see it.
Learn to recognize warning signs and risk factors.
What can cause brain disorders? Who is at risk? What are the symptoms?
These are just some of the questions you may find yourself asking as your parents get older. While it may be difficult to pin down any one set of parameters, there are certain factors that are recognized as significant enough to be considered common.
There are many symptoms associated with brain disorders, all of which usually depend on the cause of the condition. Since the brain controls so many functions throughout the body, symptoms reflect the area of the brain affected by the disorder itself and can alter or impede the way your loved ones move, think, and even behave. Here are some of the more recognizable symptoms:
- Problems concentrating
- Confusion about one or many aspects of their life
- Trouble remembering
- Regular headaches
- Noticeable changes in their behavior
- Vision problems, like double vision or blurriness
- Impeded or no muscle control
- Nausea, often accompanied by vomiting
Unfortunately, brain disorders can affect anyone, but they can be a particular concern for some seniors. Though brain disorders can be caused by a number of different injuries or illnesses, you should pay especial attention for warning signs in the following instances:
- After a stroke or other brain trauma
- If your parents have had a viral infection
- If your parents have been diagnosed with cancer or other inherited conditions that affect the brain—or if you have a family history of these conditions
- They either have smoked or are currently smoking tobacco products
- If they have a history of sleep apnea or other breathing problems, lack of oxygen can serious damage the brain.
Brain disorders come in shades and types.
Brain injuries caused by blunt trauma can damage important parts of the brain and impede vital processes that help to control the body.
Brain tumors can develop, altering or impeding the flow of blood to the brain, and the tumors themselves can cause further damage should they be cancerous.
Degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, can alter your loved one’s personality, cause confusion and memory loss, and even irreparably destroy brain tissue and nerves.
Mental health conditions are also a common senior health care concern. Conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder, though they do not necessarily damage the brain, can alter brain chemistry and cause noticeable changes in behavior that can be either chronic or acute.
Seeking the advice and expertise of a specialist is necessary in properly diagnosing your loved ones disorder, and may require various tests, exams and possibly the use of medical imagining technology. Some conditions can be at least partially controlled by taking medications, while some may require surgery and other invasive procedures.
Regardless of the disorder, facing these situations can be challenging and demanding, both for you and your loved ones. However, by following-up and following through, you can help keep your loved ones happy and healthy for years to come.