Homeless People Face Age-Related Health Conditions Earlier in Life
Many Conditions Common to 80-Year-Olds
According to a new study, health conditions usually seen among people 75 or older are more common among middle-aged homeless people than older people who do have housing, reports Fox News.
Some of these age-related conditions include thinking problems, visual impairment, urinary incontinence, and falls. The conditions occur earlier in life for people in poverty and even earlier in life for those who are homeless, says Dr. Margo B. Kushel of the University of California’s San Francisco General Hospital.
For the study, researchers interviewed 350 people who were homeless and age 50 and older, with half of them under age 59. The participants stayed in unsheltered locations, shelters, intermittently with family or friends, or in rental housing. A third of the group had suffered a fall over the past six months, a quarter had cognitive impairment, 45 percent had vision problems, and almost half screened positive for urinary incontinence, regardless of their living arrangements. These issues typically first arise for housed adults age 75 and older.
Researchers also found that the homeless participants had as much or more trouble bathing, dressing, eating, using transportation, taking medications, managing money, applying for benefits, arranging a job interview, and finding a lawyer as 80 year olds with housing in the general population.
"What we ask them to go through to leave homelessness, that includes cognitively and physically hard things,” said Kushel. Taking public transportation to various offices and filling out paperwork may be too difficult for people suffering the health problems common to 80 year olds.
"One of the ways we handle geriatric conditions is we make changes to the environment, add grab bars in the bathroom, we light their path to the bathroom with nightlights to prevent a fall," Kushel said. "When people are in unstable environments, we can't do that."