Earlier this year, we posted an insightful breakdown from the National Institute on Aging about fatigue in older adults. Over the past year, many of us have struggled to summon the energy to get through our days. Such lack of energy can be concerning, but it could be attributed to a variety of very reasonable factors. Thankfully, the NIH’s review of this very common problem offers explanations for this issue—and informed suggestions on how to address it.
Everyone feels tired now and then. But, after a good night’s sleep, most people feel refreshed and ready to face a new day. If you continue to feel tired for weeks, it’s time to see your doctor. He or she may be able to help you find out what’s causing your fatigue. In fact, your doctor may even suggest you become more active, as exercise may reduce fatigue and improve quality of life.
Some Illnesses Cause Fatigue in Older Adults
Sometimes, fatigue can be the first sign that something is wrong in your body. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition that affects the joints, often complain of fatigue. People with cancer may feel fatigued from the disease, treatments, or both.
Many medical problems and treatments can add to fatigue in older adults. These include:
- Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and medicines for nausea and pain
- Having medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, or recovering from major surgery
- Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Untreated pain and diseases like fibromyalgia
- Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
Managing a health problem may make the fatigue in older adults go away. Your doctor can help.
Can Emotions Cause Fatigue in Older Adults?
Are you fearful about the future? Do you worry about your health and who will take care of you? Are you afraid you are no longer needed? Emotional stresses like these can take a toll on your energy. Fatigue can be linked to many conditions, including:
- Grief from loss of family or friends
- Stress from financial or personal problems
- Feeling that you no longer have control over your life
Not getting enough sleep can also contribute to fatigue. Regular physical activity can improve your sleep. It may also help reduce feelings of depression and stress while improving your mood and overall well-being. Yoga, meditation, or cognitive behavioral therapy could also help you get more rest. Talk with your doctor if your mental well-being is affecting your sleep or making you tired.
What Else Causes Fatigue in Older Adults?
Some lifestyle habits can make you feel tired. Here are some things that may be draining your energy:
- Staying up too late. A good night’s sleep is important to feeling refreshed and energetic. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Having too much caffeine. Drinking caffeinated drinks like soda, tea, or coffee late in the day can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Limit the amount of caffeine you have during the day and avoid it in the evening.
- Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol changes the way you think and act. It may also interact with your medicines.
- Eating junk food. Say “no thanks” to food with empty calories, like fried foods and sweets, which have few nutrients and are high in fat and sugars. Choose nutritious foods to get the energy you need to do the things you enjoy.
- Getting too little or too much exercise. Regular exercise can boost your energy levels, but don’t overdo it. Visit the Go4Life website to make a plan to get the right amount of exercise for you.
Can Boredom Cause Fatigue?
Being bored can make you feel tired. That may sound strange, but it’s true. If you were very busy during your working years, you may feel lost about how to spend your time when you retire. When you wake up in the morning, you may see long days stretching before you with nothing planned. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Engaging in social and productive activities that you enjoy, like volunteering in your community, may help maintain your well-being. Additionally, think about what interests you and what skills or knowledge you have to offer and look for places to volunteer.
How Can I Feel Less Tired?
Some changes to your lifestyle may help fatigue in older adults. Here are some suggestions:
- Keep a fatigue diary to help you find patterns throughout the day when you feel more or less tired.
- Exercise regularly. Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. If you have concerns about starting an exercise program, ask your doctor if there are any activities you should avoid.
- Moderate exercise may improve your appetite, energy, and outlook. Some people find that exercises combining balance and breathing (for example, tai chi or yoga) improve their energy.
- Try to avoid long naps (over 30 minutes) late in the day. Long naps can leave you feeling groggy and may make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is linked to many diseases and disorders, such as cancer, heart disease, and breathing problems, which can drain your energy.
- Ask for help if you feel swamped. Some people have so much to do that just thinking about their schedules can make them feel tired. Working with others may help a job go faster and be more fun.
When Should I See a Doctor for Fatigue?
If you’ve been tired for several weeks with no relief, it may be time to call your healthcare provider. He or she will ask questions about your sleep, daily activities, appetite, and exercise and will likely give you a physical exam and order lab tests.
Your treatment will be based on your history and the results of your exam and lab tests. Your doctor may prescribe medications to target underlying health problems, such as anemia or irregular thyroid activity. Also, he or she may suggest that you eat a well-balanced diet and begin an exercise program.
What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or ME/CFS, is a condition in which fatigue lasts 6 months or longer and is not related to other diseases or conditions. People with CFS experience symptoms that make it hard to do daily tasks like dressing or bathing. Also, along with severe fatigue that doesn’t get better with rest, CFS symptoms can include problems with sleep, memory and concentrating, pain, dizziness, sore throat, and tender lymph nodes.
About The GreenFields Continuing Care Community
The GreenFields Continuing Care Community provides for the physical, social, and spiritual needs of residents in a Christian environment. In addition to skilled nursing, subacute rehabilitation, and outpatient therapy at GreenField Health & Rehabilitation Center, The GreenFields offers a variety of living arrangements and support levels based on individual needs. This includes independent living apartments in GreenField Manor; assisted living apartments in GreenField Court; and memory care and enhanced assisted living in GreenField Terrace.