SENIORS: EXPECTING AND ACCEPTING CHANGE IN HEALTH

Dec 13th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Seniors Expect Change

Wise counsel for senior citizens is ‘the one thing predictable for the elderly is change’. As we age, some body parts wear out from use… like our joints.  We sit around more and exercise less and our muscles get weaker.  Following retirement, we adjust to living on a fixed income and the constraints that come with that.  Change.  Predictable change.

The body parts wearing out has its own set of peculiar ramifications.  I was diagnosed with dry age-related macular degeneration this week.  It’s an eye condition in which the macula inside the eye deteriorates and causes change (that word again!) in vision.  Change that makes vision deteriorate slowly and over a period of years.

I’ve already had three corneal transplants from an inherited condition known as keratoconus.  That eye condition results in the cornea growing into a cone-shape and severely distorting vision.  My first two transplants came in the early 1970s, and the third in 1997, just as we were about to retire.  So living with eye issues that create vision changes is nothing new for me.  I’ve experienced the scare about losing my eyesight several times, and I’ve survived each one.

But another one?  A new one?  Another major problem with my eyes and my vision?

Seniors Accept Change

There aren’t any guarantees that we will have or won’t have health issues as we age.  Chances are that at least a few minor ones will crop up for all of us if we live long enough.  The more major health diagnoses bring with them both impaired health and lifestyle, as well as emotional stress learning to live with the effects of the disease(s).  Some of the minor ones do as well.

So what does it mean to seniors when a diagnosis-whammy comes along and smacks you on the side of the head?  How do you cope?

  • First, it really helps to learn as much as you can about the disease.  Using your favorite Internet search engine, enter the words that are used in the diagnosis, and a gazillion references will pop up.  You can choose the ones you want to read.  I usually read the ones that come from major medical institutions and universities.  They generally have the best documented information about the health issue you’re investigating.
  • Then I recommend you search out friends of friends who have the same health problem and talk with them about their experience.  Of course, not everyone has the same experience with an illness, but others’ recounting of what they’ve been through helps you realize you’re not alone in trying to manage your health.
  • If you discover there are several different forms of treatment, get all the information about them that you can and talk with the physician(s) you choose for treatment about the options.  Write down your questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask even the simplest questions.  It’s your body and your life, and you have a right to ask any questions you have about health issues.
  • Be sure you include reading about and considering alternative forms of treatment.  This does not mean you should substitute an alternative treatment for a mainline protocol.  It does mean that there may be treatments of diet or acupuncture or other Eastern medicine that can be very helpful in addressing the health issue-whammy you experience.  Always, always, check with your primary care physician about any health concerns you have.

Accepting the change that comes with your newly-diagnosed condition is always made easier if your loved one(s) are supportive and understanding.  Emotional support has been shown to be a critical component for treatment and improvement in any health condition we seniors encounter. So reach out to those you know who will be supportive, and accept their expressions of love and concern, as well as their offers of assistance as you walk through the new waters ahead of you.

 



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