Inspired Lives Through Inspired Care | Need care now? Call us at 847-272-4997

Open Arms Academy

Four Common Chronic Conditions in Seniors: How to Manage Them

Senior Woman on Park Bench with Friend

As people get older, avoiding a chronic medical condition becomes increasingly difficult. 80% of seniors older than 65 have at least one, while 68% have two or more chronic medical conditions. While the biggest risk factors for these chronic conditions are things you often can’t control, including age and family history, fortunately, there are ways to reduce the chance of the onset of a chronic medical condition. And if yourself or a loved one are already living with such a condition, there are ways that could make managing it easier. Here’s what you need to know about dementia, Parkinson’s, heart failure, and obstructive pulmonary diseases.


Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, make decisions, or solve problems that interfere with a person’s day-to-day life. It affects people in different ways and has many types based on which parts of the brain are affected. The most common type is Alzheimer’s disease, while other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia. Dementia also has different stages from mild to severe.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms vary at different stages.

  • At an early stage, the first signs may be forgetfulness, losing track of the time, feeling lost in familiar places, or finding it hard to carry out familiar tasks.
  • At a later stage, these symptoms may become more severe, resulting in a person with dementia becoming confused even while at home, forgetting recent events and names, or showing changes in behavior.
  • At a progressing stage, people may become unaware of the time and place, have difficulty recognizing relatives and friends, and behavioral changes may escalate and even include aggression.

Cause, treatment, and prevention

In most cases, the underlying causes of dementia are still unknown, although various research found that changes in the brain are linked to certain forms of dementia. While the strongest known risk factor for dementia is age, it’s not an inevitable consequence of biological aging. Currently, there’s no cure for dementia, but much can be offered to support and improve the lives of people living with it.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms can be different for everyone and as early signs are mild, they often go unnoticed. They often begin on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side, even after the disease progresses and symptoms begin to affect both sides. Parkinson’s signs may include:

  • A tremor or shaking that usually begins in a limb, often a hand or fingers.
  • Slowed movement: over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming.
  • Rigid muscles: muscle stiffness can occur in any part of the body. This can be painful and can limit your range of motion.
  • Loss of automatic movements: this may mean a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes: you may speak softly, quickly, or hesitate before talking. Your speech may lose some inflections and become more monotone.

Cause, treatment, and prevention

Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain, which plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear, but most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible. Although there’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. COPD happens when the lungs become inflamed, damaged, and narrowed

Signs and symptoms

COPD mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke. Many people don’t even realize they have it. People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than the usual day-to-day variation and persist for at least several days.

The main symptoms of COPD are:

  • Increasing breathlessness, particularly during physical activities
  • A persistent chesty cough that may produce mucus
  • Chest tightness
  • Persistent wheezing
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy

Causes, prevention and treatment

Unlike some other chronic diseases, COPD typically has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention, and there are ways to slow the progression of the disease. The main cause is smoking. The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you’ve smoked. Some cases of COPD are caused by long-term exposure to harmful fumes or dust, such as burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes. If you have COPD and you smoke, quitting right away is the best thing you can do. This can help prevent further damage to your lungs before it starts to cause troublesome symptoms.

Congestive Heart Failure

While it may sound scary at first, heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart works less efficiently than normal. Due to various possible causes, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart can’t pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs.

Signs and symptoms

You may not have any symptoms of heart failure, or they may be mild to severe. They can be constant or can come and go and include:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing: you may have trouble breathing when you exercise, or when you lie flat in bed. Shortness of breath happens when fluid backs up into the lungs or when your body isn’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood. If you wake up suddenly at night and have to sit up to catch your breath, the problem is severe, and you need medical treatment.
  • Swelling in your ankles, legs and abdomen, or weight gain: when your kidneys don’t filter enough blood, your body holds onto extra fluid and water. Extra fluid in your body causes swelling edema and weight gain.
  • A need to urinate while resting at night: gravity causes more blood flow to the kidneys when you are lying down, which results in more urine.
  • Dizziness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, fainting: you may have these symptoms because your heart isn’t pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

Causes, prevention, and treatment

Many medical conditions that damage the heart muscle can cause heart failure. Common conditions are coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, (damage to and enlargement of the heart muscle) heart defects present at birth, diabetes, and high blood pressure. There are now more treatment options available for heart failure than ever before. The first steps are careful control over your medications and lifestyle, coupled with close monitoring. The goals of treating heart failure are to try to keep it from getting worse to ease symptoms, and to improve quality of life. As the condition progresses, doctors specializing in the treatment of heart failure can offer more advanced treatment options.

At Open Arms Solutions, we have a deep understanding of all of these conditions and strive to improve the quality of life of people living with them. Explore our website to learn more about our services and contact us with any questions.

Join our care community to receive weekly educational resources and updates!

Follow us for resources & updates!

Terms & Conditions | Copyright 2023