The risk that asthma gets worse with age cannot be disregarded. Getting older and having lived with asthma for a long time may decrease lung function. This is due to stiffness of the chest wall, reduced respiratory muscle function, loss of elasticity and permanent changes of the airway walls.
If you are an adult, aged 65 years or above, or if you are the caregiver for an elderly person, you should be aware that asthma can worsen as the lungs get older. The symptoms of asthma may be more difficult to distinguish since they can be attributed to normal ageing or linked to diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases obesity or COPD.
Managing asthma in the elderly, things you must know
Taking other medications to treat conditions other than asthma may also cause confusion. In addition, some asthma medications can react with other treatments, and some medications such as beta-blockers which may be prescribed for heart problems or as eye drops for some types of glaucoma may actually worsen asthma symptoms.
People of advanced age may also struggle with using inhalers because arthritis or muscle weakness might reduce their ability to breathe well enough to get the medicine at each puff. Thus, it is very important that elderly patients have their inhaler technique checked at each consultation. Using the same type of inhaler for different medicines may also improve adherence to treatment in elderly patients.
Treatment of asthma for elderly adults can be complicated if they have mental confusion or memory problems. Talk to the person’s healthcare provider about how to simplify their treatment, with an inhaler device that they can use easily.
Managing asthma in ageing
- Ask your healthcare provider for digital medication reminders to help you comply with your medication schedule.
- Use a printed daily medication schedule and alarm clock reminders.
- Make sure the action plan is easy to read and written in a large font size, if needed.
- Check repeatedly the inhaler technique with a pharmacist or an asthma nurse.
Inform the healthcare providers of any treatments you are on, even the ones you may think are totally unrelated to asthma such as eye drops for glaucoma because they can cause increased asthma symptoms or serious asthma attacks.
- Get vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 and discuss with your healthcare provider about pneumococcal vaccine.