According to the website http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004011.htm put out by the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are certain changes that occur in a human being’s bones and muscles in the chest and spine. These include:
- Bones become thinner and change shape. This can change the shape of your ribcage. As a result, your ribcage is less able to expand and contract during breathing.
- The muscle that supports your breathing, the diaphragm, becomes weakened and may prevent you from inhaling and exhaling enough air.
Because these changes in the bones and muscles take place, it also affects the blood because a lower oxygen level is supplied. In addition, that results in less carbon dioxide being removed from the body. That is why many elderly clients will feel tired and short of breath.
The NIH states that when lung tissue changes:
- Muscles and other tissues that are near your airways lose their ability to keep the airways completely open. This causes the airways to close easily.
- Aging also causes the alveoli to lose their shape and become baggy.
Due to these lung tissue changes, air can get trapped in the lungs. When not enough oxygen enters the capillaries, it also means that less carbon dioxide will be removed thus making it harder for your client to breath.
I was recently asked what could be done to reverse these changes. As far as I can tell (being quite non-medical), it is impossible to reverse the changes, you would have to prevent them with proper diet and exercise before the changes ever begin to take place.
Depending on when you become your client’s caregiver will tell you just how much influence you could potentially have over these changes. Most likely you will simply have to show that With Age Comes Respect and care for the client in retrospect.