The cause of ageing is a subject of vigorous debate worldwide. Some people believe it is just wear and tear while many think ageing is genetically determined. Although a more modern concept, the genetic determination theory is not scientifically borne out.
For example just because your parents lived until they were very old does not genetically endow you with longevity. In fact, only a measly six per cent of your lifespan is determined by your parents' longevity. Even genetically identical twins on average have a difference of about 15 years in their lifetime (in sharp contrast, almost 90 per cent of your height is influenced by how tall your parents are).
So the older concept of wear and tear does seem to hold sway to a large extent. Our bodies accumulate harmful products like lipofucin and DNA mutations and numerous other microcellular problems over the years, and just like an old car, we tend to fall apart physically.
Regardless of the cause of ageing, one of the most frequently occuring problems faced by the elderly are falls leading to orthopaedic injuries like hip fractures which may make them bed-ridden and cause other complications. So preventing falls is vital in taking care of the elderly.
An important study of the elderly pointed to three primary risk factors for falls: poor balance, a regimen of more than four medication, and muscle weakness. In general elderly people even without any of these risk factors have a 12 per cent chance of falls in a year, but if all three factors are present then the likelihood of falls is 100 per cent.
Taking elderly family members for regular eye and ear check-ups helps. Making sure they drink adequate amount of fluid to stave off the side effects of some drugs like diuretics which cause dehydration and dizziness, is also vital. Ensuring their daily nutritional intakes are balanced in terms of calories, proteins, and vitamins will go a long way in limiting muscle weakness. And simple measures like making them wear proper footwear and keeping floors dry will prevent falls.
Finally, finding compassionate and caring doctors for the elderly is critical. Unlike young patients, older ones have 10 main complaints rather than just one or two, which may have existed for over 50 years. Young doctors who may have joined the medical profession for its 'celebrity' status quickly learn that taking care of older patients is not a glamorous job and is actually very challenging. Doctors with enormous patience are the right fit.