The Effects of Health Care Reform on Long-Term Care
Buried in both the House and Senate health care reform bills are important provisions that would make long-term care more aff...Read more
Americans are living longer than ever before, but many older Americans could better deal with their health problems, according to the Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA). To help the elderly stay healthier longer, the IHA has identified the 10 most common mistakes older Americans make in caring for their health.
The Institute is a non-profit organization based in La Habra, California, that demonstrates innovative health care practices and educates health care professionals and consumers.
The IHA's 10 most common health care mistakes made by the elderly are:
The elderly often associate mobility in a car with their independence, but knowing when it is time to stop driving is important for the safety of everyone on the road. Decisions about when to stop driving should be made together with a family physician because chronological age alone does not determine someone's fitness to drive.
Refusing to wear a hearing aid, eyeglasses or dentures, and reluctance to ask for help or to use walking aids are all examples of this type of denial. This behavior may prevent the senior from obtaining helpful assistance with some of the problems of aging.
Older Americans may not want to bring up sexual or urinary difficulties. Sometimes problems that the individual thinks are trivial, such as stomach upsets, constipation, or jaw pain, may require further evaluation.
"I could not understand the doctor," or "He told me what to do, but you know me, I can't remember what he said'š" are typical complaints. Reluctance to ask the doctor to repeat information or to admit that they do not understand what is being said can result in serious health consequences.
Falls result in fractures and painful injuries, which sometimes take months to heal. To help guard against falling, the elderly should remove scatter rugs from the home and have adequate lighting in the home and work areas. They should wear sturdy and well-fitting shoes, and watch for slopes and cracks in sidewalks. Participating in exercise programs to improve muscle tone and strength is also helpful.
Missed medication doses can result in inadequate treatment of a medical condition. By using daily schedules, pill box reminders or check-off records, seniors can avoid missing medication doses. Because health care providers need to know all of the medicines that an elderly patient is taking, patients should maintain a complete list of all their prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including dose and the reason that the medicine is being taken.
Health problems may be overlooked when a senior goes to several different doctors or treatment programs, and multiple treatment regimens may cause adverse responses. The patient may be over- or under-treated if a single physician is not evaluating the full medical treatment program.
Reasons for such inaction and denial may include lack of money or reduced self worth due to age. "I am so old it doesn't matter anymore." Of course, such treatment delays can result in a more advanced stage of illness and a poorer prognosis.
Flu and pneumonia shots, routine breast and prostate exams are examples of readily available preventive health measures that seniors should utilize to remain healthy.
Many older Americans are simply too stubborn to ask for help, whether due to an understandable need for independence or because of early signs of dementia. It's important that elderly people alert family members or other loved ones to any signs of ill health or unusual feelings so that they can be assessed before the problem advances.
In an effort to help older Americans become less fearful of medical conditions and more empowered about their health, the IHA has published What To Do For Senior Health, an easy-to-understand, self-help medical book for senior citizens. For more information or to order the book, call (800) 434-4633 or go to www.iha4health.org.