The desires and needs of our ever-aging population are increasing by leaps and bounds as we move into the retirement stage for our first group of "baby boomers". Seventy-six million American children were born between 1945 and 1964. I happen to be on the tail end of this generation; sometimes referred to as the "shadow boomers" or "echo boomers" (people born between 1958-1964). I also belong to that group known as the "sandwich generation". Coined in the 1980s, this refers to baby boomers that care for both elderly parents and young children at the same time…..how lucky can you get – just kidding mom.
No matter if you are a "Boomer" or not, many of the questions that we have concerning our growing senior population have continued to remain the same for some 50 years or more. In this article I have tried to outline some of the more pressing health issues that I hear from family members on a weekly, sometimes daily basis concerning our aging loved ones. The health topics of concern are real, but I’m not the expert in any of these areas. The facts and figures I present are from professional resources. After reading this article if you have a loved one or know of someone that may need help in one or more of these areas, consider getting some help for them. The worst thing any of us can do is know and not act. If you do not know where to turn, call me and maybe I can help point you in the right direction.
People inquire weekly concerning care for a loved one that has some form of dementia. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. The most common form of dementia among older people is Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which initially involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Although scientists are learning more every day, right now they still do not know what causes AD, and there is no cure.
It has been said that Alzheimer’s will most-likely be the next "disease of the century". Scientists think that as many as 4.5 million Americans suffer from AD. The disease usually begins after age 60, and risk goes up with age. While younger people also may get AD, it is much less common. About 5 percent of men and women ages 65 to 74 have AD, and nearly half of those age 85 and older may have the disease.
There seems to be a pill for just about everything nowadays. Proper administration of medication also tops the list of concerns for elderly persons. Due to the increase in the number of medications available, and the growing concern of drug interactions, making sure your loved one is taking the proper dosage of medications at the appropriate times is very important. Any loopholes in this critical area of health care should be considered a reason for concern.
The many possible consequences from falls are a threat to the lives, independence and health of adults ages 65 and older. Every 18 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency department for a fall, and every 35 minutes someone in this population dies as a result of their injuries. In 2000, the total direct cost of all fall injuries for people 65 and older exceeded $19 billion. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages, and may reach $43 billion by 2020.
Depression is a continually growing concern among our older adult population. Although the stigma of depression has lessened thanks to many people and organizations willing to talk about this disease, it remains a troubling health concern for many people, young and old. Depression is often one of the common threads underlying many of today’s senior health issues. Mental health professionals regard chronic and severe depression as a serious and often disabling condition that can significantly affect a person’s work, family and social life, sleeping and eating habits, general health and ability to enjoy life.
There is hope and there are options available to assist with these and other health concerns; but you have to act in order to get the help. Jack Benny was quoted saying, "Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."
But health-related issues for older adults do matter. And these concerns are not necessarily inevitable and normal consequences of aging. Seek advice and information regarding the help that is available. Talk to your doctor or a professional support agency. If I can be of service, give me a call.
Rich Delong is director of Magnolia Manor in Richmond Hill.