According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 45 percent of people living with HIV in the United States are 50 years and above. Some of these people live longer thanks to the advancements made towards the treatment and prevention of HIV.
Regarding the reasons for living with HIV, taking care of older persons living with AIDS requires a unique approach. In this post, we discuss the tips to take care of patients living with AIDS.
HIV and age-related health conditions
Older people living with HIV/AIDS face similar health concerns as the general population aged 50 years and above regardless of their status. These concerns may include enhanced vulnerability to stressors, changes in cognitive and physical abilities, and several chronic diseases or related conditions.
Even though effective treatment has reduced the chances of AIDS-related illness among positive individuals, several HIV-related conditions like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and renal problems are common in older people with HIV.
HIV and its treatment are also associated with effects on the brain. For instance, nearly 25-50 percent of people living with the infection have a condition called HAND-HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder, a collection of motor, cognitive, and mood disorders.
The disorder is a collection of motor, cognitive, and mood disorders classified into three different stages: asymptomatic, mild, and HIV-related dementia. Fortunately, researchers are working around the clock to find HIV, and its treatment affects older people living with the infection.
Recommended tips for caregivers
Generally, the family members and the community are the first caregivers for patients living with AIDS before state, welfare, and charitable agencies get on board to offer assistance. Below are some of the recommended tips to follow as a caregiver for an older patient living with AIDS.
- Always spend some time together with the person. Research and discuss the foods they need to maintain and gain healthy weight and manage their illness. Involve them in meal planning. Learn what foods they do and those they don’t like.
- Check on their weight frequently and, if necessary, routinely weigh them and keep records. Be on the lookout for any signs of extreme weight loss and take appropriate action.
- Be loving and encouraging. If your patients need to have food of their choice, provide it for them. They may stop liking food and refuse whatever is prepared and demand a different type. This abrupt change is a common occurence due to the illness and does not imply they are becoming difficult.
- Be strong and tell them the benefits of eating and encourage them to eat as frequently as they want. Avoid giving them too much food at once as this can make them refuse to eat.
- Keep a watchful eye on their hygiene, ensure their surroundings are clean at all times. Wash their clothes and bedding frequently to prevent infections from dirt.
- Invite the person for meals with your family if they live alone and encourage community members to visit and invite them out as a show of support.
- If the patient is too weak to walk out of bed, ensure they have drinks, medicines, and food nearby where they can reach.
Living with AIDS has its share of challenges regardless of your age. However, older people may experience more difficulties than their younger counterparts, like increased isolation and loneliness.
As a caregiver assigned to assist an older patient, you have to devise unique ways of handling this group of HIV patients. For example, spending time together to discuss the foods they need to maintain a healthy weight and keep fit is beneficial.
Involve them in planning for their meals, be strong and encouraging, and ensure their environment is constantly clean. Older people are prone to chronic disease, so make sure you check their blood pressure, get screened for cancer or other serious ailments that can compromise their health further.