10 Health Tips for Women Age 65 and Older

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

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This video provides 10 health tips for women age 65 and older. These recommendations are based on expert clinical opinion presented in UpToDate online version 18.3. This video was produced by Dr. Nicholas Cohen, MD. The content of this video is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

In pursuit of happiness Part II: why the older are happier

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under AGING

Why are the frail elderly happier than the dynamic young? In last week’s post, I discussed a bit about the so-called U-Bend of Life as reported in the Dec 16 issue of The Economist.

This week, let us explore further the reasons for the well-being that comes with age. If you take a look at the elderly, we will see all the limitations that aging brings: lack of vitality, mobility problems, failing eyesight, hearing impairment, and cognitive decline. For those who put emphasis on appearances, think about wrinkles and receding hairline.

Why are the old happier than the young? As the report in The Economist had stated:

“Enjoyment and happiness dip in middle age, then pick up; stress rises during the early 20s, then falls sharply; worry peaks in middle age, and falls sharply thereafter; anger declines throughout life; sadness rises slightly in middle age, and falls thereafter.”

The young

  • has lots of expectations to live up to
  • has lots of dreams and ambition to pursue and achievr
  • experiences frustrations and disappointment

At middle age, people might

  • have children reaching puberty, thus adding to stress
  • have financial worries such as mortgage and college money
  • be stuck in a boring job with low pay, little challenge and very little xxx to move up the career ladder.

The elderly

Here are some insights as to why the aged are enjoying life more than I do:

In developed countries, the ageing population is considered a burden to the system. In western medicine, aging is viewed as a disease to be treated. Perhaps it is time to re-examine these concepts.

In pursuit of happiness: The U-Bend of Life

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under AGING

Life begins at 46. This headline on the cover of the December 2010 issue of The Economist attracted a lot of attention among the middle-aged. Including me. I won’t tell you my exact age but it’s somewhere around that number.

The Economist article was not one of those end-of-the-year lifestyle quizzes to find out your score on a well-being scale. Like typical Economist articles, it was really serious stuff based on sound science.

The article was about the so-called “U-Bend of Life”, a phenomenon of modern sociology which indicates that the happiness of our childhood wanes as we age and unhappiness reaches its nadir (lowest point) at around age 46, after which it goes up again. As the article goes on to say, we shouldn’t fear aging because

“Life is not a long slow decline from sunlit uplands towards the valley of death. It is, rather, a U-bend.”

Indeed, at these times when we are bombarded with news about health problems especially among the elderly, this report is very comforting.

If you are to guess who is happier, a bunch of 30-year olds or a bunch of 70-year-olds, what would be your bet? I mean, you’d think that healthy 30-year olds at the prime of their life would be more contented with life than frail people in their 70s, right? Well, studies measured higher well-being among the elderly.

The skeptics would raise their eyebrows and argue that it is easy for the elderly to feel happy if they live in developed countries where healthcare and social benefits for the old are sufficient to enjoy life. However, it seems that the U-bend is evident in studies conducted in many different countries, rich and poor, and 40 years worth of data. The bend is very pronounced in some countries, less in many, the age of the all-time low may vary but the trend remains: the older we get, the happier we become.

In fact, the U-bend seems pretty universal even after taking into account socio-economic status, other demographic factors, cultural differences, and health. And the global average age of the least happy is 46.

So what’s the secret to the happiness of the elderly?

“Enjoyment and happiness dip in middle age, then pick up; stress rises during the early 20s, then falls sharply; worry peaks in middle age, and falls sharply thereafter; anger declines throughout life; sadness rises slightly in middle age, and falls thereafter.”

Personally, I believe I have reached my personal nadir and life is on the uptrend again. Suddenly, I am looking forward to aging…

Coming next: what determines happiness?

Long life versus healthy life: which one would you choose?

January 12, 2011 by  
Filed under AGING

Celebrating someone’s 80th birthday has become normal.  Progress in medicine has made it possible to prevent man from dying from diseases, but not from freeing man from diseases. On the contrary the incidence of certain diseases has increased. Our longer life does not necessarilly mean healthy life.  A new study at the University of Southern California shows that although life expectancy continues to increase in the last 30 years in the United States,  the actual number of healthy years has decreased since 1998.

 “A 20-year-old male in 1998 could expect to live another 45 years without at least one of the leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes. That number fell to 43.8 years in 2006, the loss of more than a year. For young women, expected years of life without serious disease fell from 49.2 years to 48 years over the last decade “, said one expert.  The study also says that from 1998 to 2006, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease increased in older men, of cancer in both older men and women and of diabetes among all adult groups above 30 years old.  

 Aside from this, the lack of functional mobility, defined as „the ability to walk up to ten steps, walk a quarter mile, stand or sit for 2 hours, and stand, bend or kneel without using special equipment“ has decreased among young adults.   For example, a 20- year old male today „can expect to spend 5.8 years over the rest of his life without basic mobility, compared to 3.8 years a decade ago“.  That’s an additional  two years of disability (not being able to walk up ten steps or sit for two hours) while a 20 year-old-female today can expect 9.8 years without mobility, compared to 7.3 years a decade ago.

 It seems whatever prevents people from dying, for example, medical advancement and lifestyle  may not be the same forces  that make them lead a healthy life, according to the researchers.  They also say that although these findings may be a reflection of improved diagnostics, what is alarming is that we are an increasing survival of people with diseases.   This is then more costly for the society considering as well the growing problem of lifelong obesity, hypertension and cholesterol.

 Looking at the balance, it’s hard to say whether long life is better than healthy life. If you were to choose, which one would it be?

“The Flu ends with ‘U’”

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

The FLU ends with “U”. That is the current slogan of the Flu Vaccination Week in the US.

 Pregnant women urged to have the flu vaccine

Pregnant women are pretty wary of taking medications. With good reason. Many medications can affect the growing baby in the womb that can lead to fetal malformation, preterm labor or still birth. A well-known case was that of thalidomide in 1950s which caused tens of thousands of cases of birth defects. Hence in most cases, women are not supposed to take any medications during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary.

However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in US are asking pregnant women to make an exception when it comes to the seasonal influenza vaccine. ACOG and ACIP are recommending that pregnant women should have flu shot regardless in which trimester they are in. Health authorities are assuring these women that the shot is safe and will provide protection for them and their unborn child.

Flu: What Seniors Need to Know

Another special group of people urged to get flu shots are the senior citizens. Early last month, the US Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS) organized a webcast wherein senior Americans could address their questions about the flu to the health experts, including US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Info on flu prevention especially addressed to elderly adults aged 65 and older is available on the flu.gov site. The 3 key recommendations are:

Kids and Flu: Elmo helps out

A public service announcement from the HHS will be sure to get the flu message to kids and their parents. After all, who wouldn’t listen to Sesame Street star Elmo? HHS Secretary Sebelius, with the help of this popular TV character, appeared on a webcast with this message: Be Healthy America.

Faith & Communities Fight Flu

Finally, everybody in the community have the duty to protect themselves and help prevent the spread of flu.HHS gives us 5 simple tips to do this:

Too old to run a marathon? Stop making excuses

November 15, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING, HEART AND STROKE

I have learned a lot of new things and met lots of new people over the weekend. But one of the most important things I learned was “one is never too old to run a marathon.”

I just came back from a conference in the South of France. In Nice, to be quite exact. It was warm (but not hot) and sunny and the color of the sea and the sky makes you realize why this area is called Cote d’Azur. From day 1 on, I was especially impressed by the number of joggers I saw at the Promenade des Anglais facing the Bay of Angels. Could the French (or least Nice’s winter residents) be really that fond of running?

Arriving on Thursday, I was kicking myself for not bringing my running gear. I thought that during the 2.5 day educational trip, I won’t be able to find the time to run. But the weather and the scenery along the promenade were just perfect that one can think of running all the way to Monaco and back. Then I saw the posters and it became clear to me that the French Riviera, the European senior citizens’ get away at this time of the year, has suddenly turned into a runners’ paradise. Sunday, the 14th November was the Nice marathon. And boy, was I sorry not to be able to see it. My return flight was booked for Saturday evening.

At the conference I met a young lady at least 15 years my junior and we got to talking about running. She has already done a couple of marathon runs in her much shorter lifetime. As usual, I went on about my dream of running one but citing my (middle) age as the reason (or rather excuse?) for not fulfilling my dream.

And this girl flagger blasted me even more when she told me her 50 plus parents recently run the Athens marathon. The message she managed to convey is this: no one is too old to run a 42.195 km in one go. This young girl put me to shame for making excuses but also inspired me to go for that dream and forget about my age.

Indeed, when googling around, I found news articles about marathon runners as old as 80, 90 or even 100.

Here a couple of those articles:

Or what about this from the founder of the blog Old-Runner.Com

“I began running on Labor Day Weekend in 2008 at the age of 56 and started this blog to document my trials and tribulations as a runner. I had lost 50 pounds on WeightWatchers and felt better than I had in years. I’m still here two years later and am happy to say I have averaged 50 races per year since I started although I’m thinking about racing a little less in my third year of running.

But it is not about setting and breaking records and hitting the headlines. It’s about going for that dream and setting an example for my children.

Yes, I may not be that young anymore but I am not too old to run a marathon yet. Besides, running slows the effects of aging.

So stay tuned for more running updates from me!

And thank you, V, for the inspiration.

Hospitalizations for drug abuse is increasing among the elderly

October 26, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Grandpa sniffing coke? Grandma gulping down cough syrup? Sounds ridiculous but it cna be true.

Drug abuse is not restricted only to the young. While young people are getting more and more into prescription drug abuse (see previous post on National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month), many of the older generation are still hooked on illicit drugs and trying out OTC drug abuse at the same time. In fact, a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) shows that rate of hospitalization for drug-related conditions among Americans aged 45 years old and older is increasing.  The report cited three main types of drug-related conditions that led to hospitalizations in this age group:

But it is not only the middle-aged who are abusing substances. Even senior citizens above 65– our grandpas and grandmas- are also involved

The study revealed the following statistics:

The trend found by the AHRQ study was disturbing because it is assumed that adolescents who abuse drugs mature and outgrow the need to try to new and exciting things. And as they grow, they also become wiser and more sensible. Yet, the age distribution of drug abusers seems to be changing, with a tendency to increase with increasing age. The reasons  for this are not fully understood and need to be addressed by more studies.

It is, however, important to inform people that drug abuse is dangerous and can kill. AHRQ describes the most common drug-related conditions:

  • Drug-induced delirium or dementia can be caused by sleeping pills as well as drugs for urinary incontinence, nausea and other problems common in the elderly, but doctors sometimes cannot identify the cause.
  • Poisoning by pain medicines or other drugs containing codeine, meperidine or other opiates can be caused by accidental overdosing or the failure to recognize the drug’s active ingredient.

Computer-associated health problems: the elderly are at risk, too

September 20, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING, HEALTHCARE

How’s this for statistics on computer use:

  • People spend between 2 and 15 hours in front of the computer each day (according to self-reported online surveys).
  • Americans spend 2.6 million minutes on Facebook each day, according the latest statistics. Other top sites are Google, yahoo, and YouTube.

Ok, so you’d say, so what? Well, how about this?

  • A Flowtown survey revealed that the average age of Twitter users is 39 years, just 5 years younger than the average age of LinkedIn users (source: MLC).
  • 47% of Internet users aged 50 to 64 years old are regular social media users.
  • 26% of those above 60 have at least one social media account.

The point is, computer and Internet use are not restricted to the younger generation any more. These statistics indicate that many older adults spend lots of time sitting still in front of the computer. Health experts have expressed concerns about today’s kids and adolescents having too much “screen time”, with serious health consequences. But what about the elderly?

Sedentary lifestyle

The more time one spends on Facebook, the less physically active one is. It is great to have the elderly get on the information superhighway and keep up with the times. But not at the expense of their health. Overweight, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are just a few of the health conditions that result from a sedentary lifestyle.

Specific computer-related health problems

Then there are the health problems specifically associated with computer work.

Eye and vision problems

These are the most common problems associated with computer work. Symptoms include eye strain or fatigue, headaches and blurred vision.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

MSDs are also common complaints from frequent computer users, most especially damage to the tendons, muscles and nerves.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (also known as median neuritis) is a painful condition of the hands and wrists. It is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the shoulder, down the arm, to the hand. The syndrome can be caused by “working with bent wrists, a high rate of repetition using the hands, a lack of rest for the hands and wrists.” In other words, typing on the keyboard and playing video games.

Back, neck and shoulder problems, especially in the lower back are commonly reported when “sitting for long periods in a chair that does not provide support to the lower back (lumbar) region.”

Thus, working for long periods in the computer can hasten the development or progression of certain age-related conditions such as vision deterioration, arthritis, and impaired mobility.

Doctors are advised to issue warnings and recommend preventive measures not only to the young but to their older patients as well. You never know who is sitting in front of the computer these days.

Alzheimer’s and your purpose in life

March 4, 2010 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Do you have a purpose in life, a purpose that drives you to go on living and be healthy? For the young, this question is easy to answer. For the elderly, the answer to this question is not an easy one. But your answer may actually be determinant whether you develop Alzheimer’s disease or not.

Over the years, a lot of risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s have been identified, including, genetics, nutrition, physical activity, and psychosocial factors. Latest research indicates that psychological factors that may include conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism are linked to risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest study by American researchers suggests that having a greater purpose in life than just while the days away can reduce to risk for mild cognitive impairment, which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

According to researcher Dr. Patricia A. Boyle and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago:

“Purpose in life, the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior, has long been hypothesized to protect against adverse health outcomes.”

The Chicago researchers looked at more than 950 older adults living in communities and are part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The participants had to answer questionnaires that assess their purpose in life. As an example, they are asked to rate their level of agreement with the following statements.

High scores were indicative of greater purpose in life. The participants were followed up for 4 to 7 years, including psychological and clinical evaluations. Upon the analyzing the scores based on questionnaire responses, the researchers found that patients who scored the highest (4.2 out of 5) were 2.4 times more likely not to develop Alzheimer’s than those with low scores (3 out of 5). The high scorers had also a significantly reduced risk for cognitive impairment and lower rate of cognitive decline. However, the biological significance of the findings is poorly understood. Nonetheless, this suggests a potential for behavioral therapy and preventive measures for the elderly. The authors concluded:

“In particular, these findings may provide a new treatment target for interventions aimed at enhancing health and well-being in older adults. Purpose in life is a potentially modifiable factor that may be increased via specific behavioral strategies that help older persons identify personally meaningful activities and engage in goal-directed behaviors. Even small behavioral modifications ultimately may translate into an increased sense of intentionality, usefulness and relevance.”

Watching over our aging parents

December 17, 2009 by  
Filed under AGING

old woman gardenAs we approach middle age, our parents approach old age, and we are faced with the possibility that our aging parents will run into problems that comes with age. I lost both my parents years back. I come from Asia, where many countries have low life expectancy. I guess we were lucky that our Dad lived up to his 80s and our mom to her 70s. My husband’s family, like many European families, is family of mainly elderly people. European life expectancies are among the highest in the world. My husband’s parents in their 70s are both well and his grandma is approaching her 90th year with optimism. Uncles and aunts in their 70s are all healthy and active.

In Asia, it is tradition that the young take care of the elderly. In Europe, the elderly are more independent and tend to live alone. Initially, it was very difficult for me to accept this but I have learned to live with it.

However, I still believ we shouldn’t take for granted that our aging parents and grandparents can manage on their own all the time. Old age is something that the elderly people themselves may find difficult to accept. After all, old age can mean loss of independence and mobility. It is up to us to be vigilant about our elders’ health and well-being. The health experts at Mayo Clinic gives us some tips on what to watch out for as we watch over our aging parents:

Weight loss. When the elderly loses weight, this could mean a lot of things. Weight loss may be due to certain medical conditions. However, it could well be due to physical difficulties that may restrict the elderly from shopping or cooking. It could also be due to loss of sense of taste or smell that comes with the aging process. In any case, finding out the cause of weight loss is of utmost importance.

Physical appearance. We should pay attention to other parents’ appearance, their clothes, their grooming behavior, and their personal hygiene. Deviation from the normal or routine can indicate conditions that need to be investigated further.

Safety. As our parents age, their mobility and physical capabilities deteriorate. Stairs that used to easy can eventually become a difficult hurdle. We should pay more attention to health hazards (e.g. things that increase risks of falls or other injuries, fire hazards, etc.) in the elderly’s accommodations.

Behavior and social life. We should watch out for mood swings and abnormal behavior in the elderly. This will include looking for signs of depression and looking into their social life. It is well-known that an active social life keeps the elderly fit and lowers the risk for dementia. Depression, on the other hand, can be indicative of underlying medical conditions.

Mobility. Loss of mobility becomes a big risk with age. This loss can mean loss of independence for the elderly and can greatly affect all of the abovementioned problems. The elderly sometimes are the last to admit that they have problems with movement. It is up to us to monitor them and watch for signs of loss of mobility.

By watching out for these problems related to aging, we can take action to prevent the problems to worsen. Mayo Clinic recommends the following course of action:

■Share your concerns with your parents.

■Encourage regular medical checkups.

■Address safety issues.

■Consider home care services.

■Contact the doctor for guidance.

 ■Seek help from local agencies.

Our World is Aging

November 11, 2009 by  
Filed under AGING, Featured

elderly signWhat is aging? Is it about the number that’s written on your ID? Is it the number of candles on your cake? Is it the number of lines on your face? Is it the number of beats your heart has beaten all these years?

When we talk about age, we should think of the physical as well as the mental and emotional aspect. Although in many cases, the different aspects of age are more or less synchronized, though there is not always the case. Some people may look young on the outside but feel old and weary deep inside. There are also those who feel “young at heart” even in their 80s.

Aging is a natural process and there is no way we can fully stop it, unless we have the mythical elixir of life. However, recent medical advances may be able to delay aging. There are many ways to Battle Aging. Cosmetic surgery such as facelifting and botox can remove the lines from a face and thus temporarily stop physical aging. Some people, however, choose to “age gracefully” by accepting the wrinkles but keeping the body young and fit by leading a healthy lifestyle. And then there are those whose body may be old and broken by disease but whose heart and spirit are still young and whole.

In Battling Aging, we will tackle all the different aspects of aging.

What is aging? Is it about the number that’s written on your ID? Is it the number of candles on your cake? Ist it the number of lines on your face? Is it the number of beats your heart has beaten all these years?

To start off, I’d like to bring you some figures about the age of the world population expressed in years. Here are some statistics from a recent report entitled “An Aging World: 2008” International Programs Center in the Population Division of the Census Bureau and commissioned by the US National Institute on Aging:

  • In 2008, there were 506 million people worldwide aged 65 and older.
  • In 2040, the 65 and above generation will reach 1.3 billion.
  • In just over 30 years, the proportion of older people will double from 7 to 14%
  • In 10 years, there will be more people aged 65 and older than children under 5 in the world.

Here are some highlights from the report:

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Choosing a nursing home

September 30, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

laughing_elderly_womanWhen our mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 68, we didn’t know what to do. Coming from a culture which strongly believes that the young should take care of the aged, it was hard for us to face the fact that we had to place her in a nursing home. Having somebody come in to take care of her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has become a big financial burden. Add to that the emotional burden of seeing her deteriorate each day. Luckily, we found a home for the elderly run by a religious order, with professionally trained nursing nuns to take care of her. Our guilt was appeased when we saw how her physical health improved in an environment where she gets professional medical care as well as the social interaction with people of her age. Visits on weekends became a fun affair for everybody. Her dementia did not improve but we were glad to see her happy and comfortable during the last few years of her life.

Choosing the right nursing home is the key to our loved one’s quality of life and to our peace of mind. It is also a big responsibility.

As HealthCare 411 at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) rightly said

Unfortunately, it has been easier to find more detailed information about the best flat-screen television or most fuel-efficient vehicle than on a good local nursing home.

It is for this reason that AHRQ developed a special tool as part of their Navigation Healthcare Program. The online tool called Nursing Home Compare is aimed to help find the nursing home that suits your loved ones needs by giving detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the US. The homes are rated on a 5-star quality system based on health inspections, staffing levels, and quality evaluations, among others.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends taking the following steps when using the tool:

There are also alternatives to nursing homes, including community-based services, home care, or assisted living and information on these are also available in the AHRQ site.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Physical activity helps reduce memory decline

March 12, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

brainThis study by psychologists at the University of Illinois at Pittsburg is not directly related to Alzheimers and dementia but it does tell us about how to keep our spatial memory functioning even at an advanced age.

The hippocampus is a curved structure deep inside the medial temporal lobe of the brain, is essential to memory formation. And for this part of the brain, size does matter. The bigger your hippocampus is, the better is your ability to store new experiences and the better is your spatial memory skills. A damage hippocampus however, prevents an individual to form new memories, as in the well-known case of Henry Gustav Molaison (also known as HM or Henry Right Now) who suffered from retrograde amnesia.

Certain activities make the size of the hippocampus bigger in some people and smaller in others.

For example, a study of London taxi drivers found that the posterior portion of the hippocampus was larger in experienced taxi drivers than in other subjects. And a study of German medical students found that the same region of the hippocampus increased in size as they studied for their final exams.

The size of the hippocampus, however, decreases with age, and with it certain brain functioning. The deterioration of spatial and relational memory in the elderly is one of the major causes of loss of independence and disorientation.

The shrinkage of the hippocampus, however, varies from one individual to another and the researchers found that one way of keeping the hippocampus- and thus memory skills fit is through physical exercise.

This has been observed before in laboratory studies using rodents. The University of Illinois researchers looked at 165 adults aged 59 to 81 years old. 65% of the participants were females. The researchers measured the cardiorespiratory fitness of the participants and conducted a volumetric analysis of the subjects’ left and right hippocampi using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The participants’ spatial reasoning was also tested.

The study results revealed that there is a significant link between an individual’s physical fitness and his or her performance in spatial memory tests as well as the size of his or her hippocampus. The size of the hippocampus in physically fit adults accounts for about 40% of their advantage in spatial memory.

According to lead researcher Kirk Erickson

This is really a clinically significant finding because it supports the notion that your lifestyle choices and behaviors may influence brain shrinkage in old age. Basically, if you stay fit, you retain key regions of your brain involved in learning and memory.”

We all the benefits of exercise to our cardiovascular health. This study gives me another reason to leave my desk and go for a run in the early spring rain.

 

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Are We Keeping the Elderly From Seeking Cancer Cures?

December 13, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Age is a tricky factor when it comes to health. There are so many different processes that are unique to the aging body that an entire field of medicine exists to study them. While a cancer diagnosis is not an age-specific event, however, it seems that many doctors are prescribing treatment plans as if it were.

Too Little, Too Late?  In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Gerontology, primary care physicians were surveyed about what type of cancer screening they would give to a hypothetical 70, 80, or 90 year-old female patient. Interestingly, physicians tended to “over screen” older, frail patients who were within five years of their median life expectancy and “under screen” healthier patients who were over ten years away from their median life expectancy.

Surviving the Fight For the Cure:  Another study published this year in Critical Reviews of Oncology / Hematology tracked 200 elderly cancer patients and found that while their physicians judged only 64% of them fit enough to undergo chemotherapy, a comprehensive geriatric assessment found nearly 98% of them to do so.

Furthermore, a 2004 article entitled “The Opinion of General Practitioners on the Treatment of Prostate and Breast Cancer in Elderly People” stated that physicians were more likely to seek non-curative cancer management plans in elderly patients regardless of his or her actual performance status or medical history.

How does the patient feel about this? A Family Practice paper entitled “Who Decides about Prostate Cancer Treatment?” found that elderly patients were more likely to follow treatment plans prescribed by their physicians — often set forth in the same conversation when they were first given their diagnoses — than seek a second opinion or become a more active participant in the decision-making process. When asked why, many stated that they feared offending their doctor or looking like a “bad patient.”

I do not write this because I wish to condemn physicians for their reluctance to seek curative measures in the mature cancer patient, but to urge all patients to find the treatment plans that are right for them. Doctors know first-hand that cancer treatment is not only physically but emotionally draining, and I believe that their bias has more to do with wanting to shield these individuals from having to go through such a demanding process than anything else.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Americans aged 65+ and over, and in light of these findings, I wonder if part of this is due to human nature wanting to “protect” our loved ones from such an exhausting process in their later years. Are we helping our hurting elderly cancer patients by making decisions for them? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Help For Depressed Older People

March 13, 2007 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

By Michael Russell

Older people experience a lot of changes in their lives that cause depression. Depression is one of the most common health problems among the elderly. Changes in older people’s physical, personal and financial capacities may contribute to their anxieties and in return, they may end up feeling sad, alone, empty and rejected.

Depression in older individuals is caused by many factors including accumulated lifetime losses and medication. Lifetime losses usually include changes in the standard of living, housing and reduced income. These also include changes in relationships, the loss of a loved one or close family members and in instances where friends and family move away. Even the loss of a pet or important possession contributes to depression. Medication on the other hand is also a common cause of depression among older individuals. Older people oftentimes take a lot of medications such as sedatives, tranquilizers, high blood pressure medicines and anti-inflammatories, all of which can cause depression. Drug interactions can sometimes be dangerous and can produce depression, mental confusion and many other physical problems.

If your older loved ones are showing signs of depression, you can help them by trying these strategies:

A loving touch can perform miracles and for depressed individuals it can give them the assurance that they are cared for and loved. Show your affection, hug or offer back rubs. These maybe the simplest forms of showing how much you care but these will mean so much for depressed people. Communicate with your loved ones in a manner that shows respect and honors their dignity. The manner in which you express yourself and talk to older people can create a huge difference in how they will feel about themselves. Be considerate to the older person’s needs especially if there is physical barrier to communication. Face the person when talking to him or her and use short sentences as much as possible, especially if the person has hearing difficulty.

Respect their preferences and routines. They may be old and dependent upon your help but they too have lifelong routines and patterns that they need to follow for a sense of continuity and that needs to be respected.

The worst thing we do for our elderly loved ones is strip them of their dignity and control. In our desire to help them and make life easier for them, we tend to take over their lives and be in full control. Always bear in mind that overprotecting your older loved ones will only drive them to depression. No one likes to have his or her control and dignity taken away. Encourage them therefore to decide for themselves and always respect their privacy.

Finally, let them continue to be involved with life’s activities. Being old doesn’t mean staying inactive and glued to their beds. Help them become involved in meaningful activities that will spark their interest and enthusiasm. Involve them in volunteer activities or get them into crafts or hobbies that will make them look forward to another day. It is by being involved with life’s activities that older people will find worth in themselves.

Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Depression

Article Source: EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell

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