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Post #1

The nervous system is comprised of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. It works together with the endocrine system to control and align the body’s activities, cells, tissues, and organs. The nervous system accepts and processes sensory messages from organs such as the skin, ears, and eyes, and reacts to the sensory inputs through effector tissues and organs. Advanced age results in physiological changes to the nervous system. The central nervous system loses neurons and undergoes atrophy. Nerve cells’ ability to relay input declines with age while waste products get deposited in spine and brain tissue during cell breakdown, causing tangles and plaques. Abnormal breakdown of nerves increases with older age. It results in poor reflexes and sensations, which cause mobility and safety issues. Reduced blood floor to the brain occurs progressively as people age. It is accelerated in individuals with health conditions such as hypertension, arteriosclerosis, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes. The untimely loss of blood flow to the brain increases the loss of neurons, leading to impaired mental function and the ability to think.

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The disks in the middle of the vertebrae harden and become brittle. Additionally, parts of the backbone may overgrow, causing the dicks capacity to cushion the spinal cord and its nerve endings from pressure. This predisposes elderly persons to spine injures loss of sensation and poor gait, strength, and balance. The peripheral nervous system loses its ability to transmit sensory input causing slowed reflexes, sensation, and disorderliness. Degeneration of myelin sheaths coupled with reduced blood flow to the periphery decreases nerve conduction. Oslo bone overgrowth exerts pressure on nerves. This reduces the ability to respond to injury given that the axon of periphery nerves’ ability to self-repair decreases with age.

Dementia refers to a slow but progressive debility in mental capacity pertaining to thinking memory ability to learn new things and judgment. It affects persons aged 65 years or older. Although it is a disorder affecting geriatrics, it is not considered a normal part of the aging process. Age-related changes in the brain are attributed to the loss of mental function (Lippmann & Perugula, 2016). It occurs gradually and may not have a definite starting point. It is characterized by profound personality changes, problems using language emotional problems, disruptive behavior, and disorientation. The condition increases dependency on others because the disease progresses to the point where affected persons are incapacitated to function. Over 50% of older people with dementia also have Alzheimer’s disease (Lippmann & Perugula, 2016). Types of dementia include vascular dementia, HIV-related dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Conditions such as Huntington’s disease, syphilis, and Parkinson’s disease also lead to dementia.

Delirium denotes a fluctuating mental condition that begins unexpectedly Delirium significantly differs from dementia. It is caused by damage to the brain’s input and output signals. While dementia affects memory personality and communication delirium is marked by a sharp inability to remain attentive, inability to think, confusion, and alterations in attention spans (Lippmann & Perugula, 2016). Delirium often leads to loss of orientation to one’s environment. Delirium often begins abruptly while dementia occurs gradually. In addition, delirium is a reversible metal condition while dementia is irreversible.

Treatment for dementia focuses on maintaining healthy mental function for an extended period. While dementia primarily occurs in old age, dementia may occur in younger persons following withdrawal from alcohol, long term chronic ailment, alternations in metabolic balances, and use of certain medication, surgery, and certain intoxications. However, both dementia and delirium affect speech and communication, memory and thinking, ability to sustain attention or meaningful conversations (Jackson et al., 2017). People suffering from the two health conditions experience hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety and unfounded fears, and euphoria and irritability, and personality changes.

Post # 2

The neurological system is a complex part of the human body but unfortunately, like the rest of the body and its systems, the aging process tends to affect it. In young adults, the brain can function at a faster capacity while receiving and interpreting signals from neurons. The central nervous system begins to atrophy as well, which means it loses overall weight. Plaque formation in the spinal cord and brain also becomes more likely to occur. Due to the aging process, older adults’ neurological functions begin to decline and show signs of delayed responses which can be noted in the peripheral nervous system as slower reflexes or decreased sensation of the extremities. This can also show a decline in blood flow or nerve damage as a result of aging along with a chronic condition like diabetes.

The brain under the effects of aging begins to slow down but should not decline in function. “As people age, the number of nerve cells in the brain usually decreases, although the number lost varies greatly from person to person, depending on the person’s health. Also, the remaining nerve cells function less well” (Goldman, 2018, para. 5) Decline in the function of the brain may be a result of an underlying condition. The nerve cells in the brain are slower to react which means the older adult might find it difficult to retain new information or recall certain memories. In the central nervous system of the older adult, the reticular activating system helps to regulate sleep and wake schedules. Sleeping in older adults can be affected due to changing levels in alertness because of impaired sensory and motor responses. The spinal cord in the aging process loses space between the discs becomes harden and weak resulting in less cushion in the spinal cord which may affect the nerves that branch out. This may show in older adults as unsteady gait and loss of strength.

In the peripheral nervous system of an older adult, the nerve cells that receive signals for sensation can decrease meaning that for the elderly it may be difficult to feel hot or cold. The nerve endings have less blood flow than before which poses a risk for older adults as they may experience injuries such as burns or hypothermia. The older adult may also have reduced interpretation of perception causing problems with balancing during walking which might also result in a fall. “You may develop problems walking because of reduced ability to perceive where your body is in relation to the floor. This increases your risk of falling, a common problem for older people” (Medlineplus.gov, 2020, Touch, Vibration, and Pain section). Older adults need help with determining the severity of their injuries if they experience one due to their decreased sensations, therefore, it is important to encourage assessments by professionals after an injury even if the area does not feel pain.

Delirium is defined as a sudden change in mental status that may make a person confused and have difficulty thinking, remembering, sleeping, or pay attention as a result of an underlying condition. Delirium can occur as a result of many different causes like recent surgery, new medications, or electrolyte imbalances, infections, and heart or lung problems. Often delirium is mistaken with dementia due to the similarities and older adults that suffer from dementia already are more likely to experience delirium. Symptoms that are similar to both cognitive impairments are memory impairment and judgment, confusion, disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations. Dementia is defined as the decline in function and abilities of memory and other mental abilities. Dementia can also affect an older person’s language, mood, and decision-making abilities. There are several causes of dementia such as conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, impaired blood flow to the brain, Parkinson’s disease, serious brain injuries, brain tumors, heavy drinking for over ten years, hormone imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, infections that target the brain, abnormal structures in the brain, or shrinking of certain parts of the brain. Delirium is known to mostly affect attention whereas dementia affects memory. “Delirium and dementia are conditions that can be confusing, both to experience and to distinguish. Both can cause memory loss, poor judgment, a decreased ability to communicate, and impaired functioning” (Heerema, 2020, para.1). A good portion of older adults suffer from memory problems but believe it is a normal part of aging, if nurses help to encourage their patients to speak to their healthcare providers it might help to delay the aging process with the right treatment plan or even prevent worsening of symptoms.

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