Even if you’re 90, you are not too old to begin CPAP treatment for your sleep apnea!
If your primary care doctor believes otherwise, run for the hills, because an elderly person newly diagnosed with sleep apnea needs CPAP as much as does a young adult.
Older Adults Age 70+ Benefit from CPAP
A study in a 2015 European Respiratory Journal focused on CPAP benefits for the elderly.
Do not think for a moment that purely age-related risks for cardiovascular problems and death “catch up” to the risks that untreated sleep apnea cause.
There is no catch-up or melding. Untreated sleep apnea in a senior man or woman is a whole separate issue from their advanced age, as far as risk or cause for health problems.
There is a distinction, however, in that in the elderly, three complications of untreated sleep apnea are far more likely than in younger patients:
• Nocturia: overnight trips to the bathroom
• Impaired cognition
Imagine the benefit to the life of an elderly person when their disruptive overnight bathroom trips are completely or nearly eliminated with CPAP use.
There’s a ripple effect here. Suppose this person is very unstable on their feet.
Every unsteady trip to the toilet overnight is a fall risk. CPAP therapy will indirectly reduce the risk of hip-breaking falls. How can CPAP therapy not be worth it for the elderly?!
What is Gramps has no problem walking?
Even if someone is 90, the enjoyment of clearer thinking and improved cognition is priceless. Who wants brain fog at any age?
Besides, there’s no telling how long an elderly person “still has.” People who are an old 85 have been known to be alive 10 years later—and still able to live in their own house.
Furthermore, if you’re wondering if CPAP is worth it for your very old parent or grandparent, ask yourself if you’d prefer that they be drowsy when driving!
Many advanced elderly still drive—and untreated sleep apnea can result in sleepiness behind the wheel.
So never assume that CPAP therapy isn’t worth it for elderly people. In fact, whatever it takes to improve the quality of their life is always well worth it – especially if they’re still driving.
The conclusion of the European Respiratory Journal paper is that clinicians should not be any less, or more, aggressive in treating obstructive sleep apnea in old people than in middle aged or young patients.
What about refusal to use the CPAP device? Don’t assume this. The paper notes that “age appears assuredly not to be a risk for lower adherence to CPAP.”
Another Study: CPAP Adherence in the Elderly
A paper in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2016) points out (as does the report above) that studies on CPAP use and benefits in the elderly are few.
Neill et al set out to compare CPAP compliance in people 65+ to that of younger patients. The researchers found that the “mean compliance in the older adults was similar to younger adults.”
However, the paper then states, “Compliance was highest in the > 75 year old group.” Presence of diabetes or high blood pressure did not affect adherence, either. Nor did home support.
The study concludes, “Excellent 1 month CPAP compliance can be achieved in older adults with equivalent clinical outcomes when delivered as part of a patient focused protocol focusing on the first four weeks of therapy.”
CPAP Benefits the Elderly
Many younger CPAP users have reported that after the first night of use, they woke feeling more refreshed than they had in years. Daytime sleepiness is commonly eliminated from the get-go.
The effects of new CPAP use in any patient can be immediate as far as how that person feels throughout the day.
A study published in a 2014 Lancet Respiratory Medicine involved 278 people over 65.
“Sleep apnoea can be hugely damaging to patients’ quality of life and increase their risk of road accidents, heart disease and other conditions,” says Professor Mary Morell in the report and co-principal study investigator.
“Many patients feel rejuvenated after using CPAP because they’re able to sleep much better and it may even improve their brain function.”