Publication Date: Friday, January 14, 2005
Who are you calling old?
Who are you calling old?
(January 14, 2005) Health care for older adults
Q: After I passed my 50th birthday, my health really started changing. Why?
A: A 68-year-old body just isn't the same as a 28-year-old body. As we age, our health care needs grow.
Preventive health is essential. Get a full physical, and discuss your lifestyle and diet with your physician.
And take heart that advances in medicine continue at an amazing pace, so your golden years will hopefully feel that way.
Q: I get tense when I see my doctor, and I forget a lot of what he tells me to do. Can you give me some advice?
A: Try these steps for making your time with your doctor less stressful and more constructive:
Take a friend or family member with you to take notes or be a second pair of ears. Take a list of your questions into the exam room. Write down the instructions your doctor gives you to back up their oral advice. Make your appointment at a time when the doctor's office is less busy.
If you need assistance reading or completing forms, just ask. Remember: the medical staff is there to help.
Q: My elderly dad doesn't seem to have much of an appetite and he's losing weight. If nagging doesn't work, what does?
A: Invite him to dinner and encourage him to share meals with friends. Eating alone is one of the most common reasons for poor eating.
Seniors often eat less because they need fewer calories, so it is even more important that they eat nutritious foods that count, particularly fruits, vegetables and dairy (for calcium).
Ask him how things taste. As we age, our ability to taste and smell is diminished. Making food more flavorful with seasonings and spices (not just salt) can really boost the appetite and fuel mealtime enjoyment.
Dramatic weight loss can also be a red flag for an underlying health problem, from depression to the onset of Alzheimer's or cancer. Be sure that your parent's physician is informed of any striking change in weight or general health.
Q: My grandfather's medicine cabinet looks like a pharmacy. Why does he need so many prescriptions?
A: There is no "one drug fits all." Geriatric patients often suffer from several chronic conditions, like arthritis plus heart disease.
Multi-drug therapy is essential in addressing the different disorders. The more medications someone takes simultaneously, the greater the risk of having drug interactions that can be simply uncomfortable or outright dangerous.
If a patient is seeing multiple doctors, they need to tell them about the other conditions and prescriptions. Physicians or pharmacists can answer questions about medicine combinations or potential side effects.
Stephen Nichols, M.D., practices internal medicine with a specialization in geriatric medicine at Camino Medical Group's Castro Commons Clinic in Mountain View.
E-mail Camino Medical Group representative Cynthia Greaves at email@example.com
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