Tag Archives: aging

Talk to parents early about aging

As our parents get older, it is often difficult to speak with them about issues they will confront in the aging process. The most important thing is to start the conversation early. Begin the dialogue when your parents are in good health. Do not wait until they develop a serious illness or are unable to make decisions for themselves. Here are some tips to help with the dialogue.

Enlist other family members to participate in the discussions. First, find out what their opinions are before you start the conversation with your parents. It is best to present a united front, so try to reach a consensus before you include your parents in the discussion.

Use good communication skills. Do not offer advice, but present your parents with options. Listen to their needs. Ask open-ended questions to better assess their views and enhance the discussion. • Understand your parents’ need to control their own lives. A sense of losing control is very frightening. Parents have a right to make decisions, but often you need to balance their need for independence with safety issues.

If you and your parents disagree, allow their wishes to prevail until their health or safety is an issue.

Address competency to drive before it becomes too late. This is a huge issue for the elderly because it affects their independence and their sense of control. If you have concerns that your parents are not safe to drive, it is often better for the family physician to address this issue, to avoid your parents blaming you if they are not allowed to drive anymore. There are ways to assess driving ability using simulators which provide objective data that the physician can use. Be forewarned that even with objective data, your parents will struggle with giving up their car. This is an extremely sensitive issue.

Ask your parents details about their finances. While this may be a difficult topic to discuss, it is important to know about insurance policies, trust documents, tax returns, bank records, investments, etc. Find out where they keep their paper work and organize the papers if necessary.

Ask about living wills and health care proxies. Understand your parents’ wishes concerning their medical care. It is important to have this in place before there is a medical crisis.

Gather information for your parents about their Medicare benefits. Medicare does not usually cover long-term care, so it is helpful to explore whether long-term care insurance is appropriate.

Identify community resources. Find out what services are available for your parents should they decide to stay in their home as they age.

Re-evaluate the situation on a regular basis. Your parents’ needs can change rapidly.

If you are having trouble with these conversations, consider involving a third party such a family physician, financial planner, attorney, or geriatric care manager. Most importantly, always treat your parents with love and respect and let them know you will be there for them as they age and confront any difficulty.

 

SUSAN LOCKE is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.

What happens as we age?

DR. SUSAN LOCKE gives excellent advice on slowing the body’s aging process . . .

Susan Locke

Susan Locke

by Susan Locke

As we age, the body goes through many changes. Outlined below are just some of the changes we can expect, along with suggestions to promote a healthier future.

Cardiovascular health. As we grow older, our blood vessels stiffen, so the heart needs to work harder to pump blood. This may lead to hypertension and other cardiovascular problems. To promote better cardiovascular health: Maintain normal cholesterol levels; eat a diet high in fiber, whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and avoid salt and fatty food; stop smoking; exercise more; and lower your stress.

Musculoskeletal health. With age, bones are more susceptible to breaking due to decreased density. Muscles also tend to get weaker and become less flexible. Joints become stiffer and are more prone to inflammation. To promote bone, muscle and joint health:

• Recommended daily amount of calcium: 1000 mg/day for adults ages 19-50 and men 51-70 (1200mg/day for women age of 51+ and men 71+)
• Recommended daily amount of Vitamin D3: 600 IU/day if you’re under 70 (800 IU for adults 71+). Sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D, but your sunscreen may block absorption. Oily fish and egg yolks are good sources.
• Exercise promotes strong bones and slows bone loss.
• Avoid smoking, and drink in moderation.

healthnetUrinary tract health. Issues associated with aging include loss of bladder control (incontinence) and difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate. To promote urinary tract health, empty your bladder regularly, strengthen your pelvic floor with Kegel exercises, and schedule prostate exams on a regular basis.

Brain health. Some memory issues are a normal part of aging. It may even take longer to learn new things or to recall names or remember familiar words.

To promote brain health: Challenge yourself by reading, learning a new language or musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles; be social to ward off depression and reduce stress; eat healthy; and exercise regularly.

Digestive health. As we age, constipation becomes more of an issue. To promote digestive health, increase fiber in your diet, increase physical activity, and avoid weight gain.

In summary, the best tips for healthy aging are: Schedule regular checkups and screenings with your primary care physician; manage chronic health conditions; maintain a well-balanced, low fat diet and moderate alcohol intake; challenge yourself mentally; get out and be social; exercise regularly, including aerobic and strength training; and quit smoking.

SUSAN LOCKE, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.

HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org