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Senior Health Articles

Let's Face It

A conversation about death, dying, and grief
With Mark Grimm, LCSW
 

iStock 000005094274SmallMark Grimm, LCSW, works with older adults and their loved ones who are facing death, dying, and grief every day. It’s a special gift and his area of expertise. We recently sat down with Mark to talk about these difficult subjects.

   

Living with Cardiovascular Disease

Care for your heart and live a vital life

Doc-Healthy-Food-WebWe’ve all heard the sobering statistics. Cardiovascular disease is prevalent and the leading cause of death (of both men and women) in our society. But the good news is that, thanks to increased awareness, changes in lifestyle and habits, and improved treatment methodologies, the rate of death from heart disease is actually decreasing. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you should know that it is not a death sentence! There are many positive steps you can take to maintain and even improve your health and quality of life. 

   

MANopause: Is It for Real?

 
A Physician’s Perspective on the Male Change of Life


iStock 000016009283SmallLosing one’s sexuality is NOT an inevitable fact of aging. It is true, however, that most everyone, male and female alike, experiences some physiological and psychological changes in their systems caused by decreasing levels of sex hormones in the body: estrogen for women and testosterone for men.

   
If you experience symptoms of incontinence, don’t be ashamed—you’re not alone! Nineteen percent (19%) of women under 45 and nearly 80% of those over age 80 have some form of incontinence. The numbers for men are somewhat lower, but at least 5% of younger men and 21% of men over 65 also experience it. Those are big numbers. And less than half of the patients who have concerns about incontinence actually bring it up in a medical visit. You don’t have to be embarrassed! Don’t let incontinence keep you at home or limit your social activities. Let’s talk about this common and very treatable problem.
 
In addition to age and gender, other risk factors include obesity, history of constipation, neuropsychiatric conditions (multiple sclerosis or dementia), and history of trauma (anything from normal childbirth to radiation for cancer or prostate surgery in men).
 
I ask incontinent patients to keep a “voiding diary” for three days. That is, they record when they go to the bathroom, when they have an accident (and approximately how much), and any kind of triggers (such as drinking a lot of liquid). It’s great if they can work on this before coming in for a visit so we can go over it together and understand what’s going on.
 
The good news is that some of the best treatment approaches are non-invasive and don’t cost a thing. Often, “kegel” exercises, which strengthen the pelvic floor, are very effective for women. Like any form of exercise, the key is to do it consistently over a long period of time to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder. Another simple solution is referred to as “timed voiding,” or bladder training. With this exercise, you train yourself to hold the urine for a specified period of time, then increase the intervals to train the bladder, along with the related muscles and nerves, to hold on until you are actually ready to go. You can work on both of these approaches at any time on your own.
 
There are many good, effective medications, especially for men who may have symptoms of frequency, urgency, and incontinence related to prostate issues. It takes about a month before you’ll know for sure whether or not a particular drug is effective for you, so be patient.
 
The last mainstay of treatment is surgery, and it’s only effective for certain kinds of incontinence. If you’re wondering whether surgery is an option for you, ask your medical provider. S/he can perform certain tests to determine the root cause of the problem, which will indicate whether you’re a good surgical candidate.
 
Protective undergarments, while they may seem embarrassing, are used by a large number of people. Even if you experience incontinence symptoms infrequently, you may want to try them when you go out in public or on trips just for peace of mind, to make you feel more confident and comfortable.
 
Get symptoms checked out right away--you’ll want your clinician to quickly rule out infections or other complications. You can make the situation worse by delaying diagnosis and treatment.
 
Incontinence is common and treatable! So don’t let embarrassment stop you from talking to your medical provider about it today.

No Need to Be Embarassed by Incontinence

You’re in Good Company!
By Travis J. Neill, PA-C

iStock 000019101046SmallIf you experience symptoms of incontinence, don’t be ashamed—you’re not alone! Nineteen percent (19%) of women under 45 and nearly 80% of those over age 80 have some form of incontinence. The numbers for men are somewhat lower, but at least 5% of younger men and 21% of men over 65 also experience it. Those are big numbers. And less than half of the patients who have concerns about incontinence actually bring it up in a medical visit. You don’t have to be embarrassed! Don’t let incontinence keep you at home or limit your social activities. Let’s talk about this common and very treatable problem.

   

Not-So-Happy Holidays?

 
Dealing with the Holiday Blues
by David Palmquist, MD

iStock 000003574934SmallYear after year, the holiday season ushers in grand expectations of celebration, happiness, sharing, and joy. Each one of us has our own stories about how perfect things should be and how happy we should be—ideals that can sometimes leave us feeling empty and hopeless when reality does not match fantasy. While people of any age can be affected by this dynamic, the elderly are even more predisposed to holiday depression.

   

Nutrition and Aging

 
How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health
By Joel Peacock, MD

Food-Heart-WebEvery day, the choices we make about the foods we eat affect everything in our bodies and have a significant influence on our health. This is especially true as we age. And, as we get older, the way our bodies process and use food can change. There are some key factors related to diet and health that I want all of my patients to know.

   
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably accumulated more medical issues and concerns than you had earlier in life--some acute, some chronic; some may be serious and others may simply be nagging little problems. For many folks, it can seem like there’s never enough quality time with the doctor to talk about everything. So I’d like to give you some pointers, from a physician’s perspective, about how you can work with your clinician to make the most out of every visit.
 
First things first. It is extremely helpful if you plan ahead for your visit by making a list of everything you’d like to discuss with your provider. You may wish to keep it on the refrigerator or by your chair so you can easily add things as you think of them. A day or two prior to your visit, go through your list and prioritize—pick the top two or three issues that are absolutely the most important to you. While there may be six or ten things on your list, it’s likely the clinician will only have time to address a few items at each visit. Don’t forget to bring your list along, and be sure to give it to your provider up front, at the beginning of the visit, so they’re aware of your concerns.
 
I suggest the following order of importance:
Bring up any new symptoms, concerns, or questions that you have not discussed previously.
If you’re not following orders or taking your medications as directed for some reason, absolutely let the physician know!
If there’s something the provider is already aware of that has recently become a greater concern to you, let him/her know.
Although you may not get to them in this visit, include any other things you’d like to talk about at the bottom of your list.
 
I don’t want to upset dad. If you are the spouse, son/daughter, or other family member of the patient who has concerns about your loved one, you may wish to communicate them to the clinician in private. For example, perhaps your mom or your husband tends to be in denial and gloss over symptoms that worry you. And you know from experience that bringing it up in front of the doctor will only make matters worse. In this case, it’s ideal for you to write a letter or a note to the physician ahead of the appointment so they are armed with the information needed to tactfully approach the situation. You can do this whether or not you are present at the appointment. It’s a reasonable and helpful way to voice your concerns.
 
 
You know, doc, I was wondering…It used to be that the physician’s word was taken as gospel and never questioned. Today, patients are becoming savvier and learning about their health from a variety of sources: discussions with friends, magazines, television, and especially the Internet. As a result of this wealth of information, it is possible that you may have questions about a medication, course of treatment, or advice your provider has given you. As a physician, I think this is fantastic! I love it when my patients are curious and ask questions about my recommendations. Ultimately, your health and well-being are your responsibility, and only you know what it’s like to live inside your body. So it’s very appropriate for you to probe until your concerns are adequately addressed and you feel comfortable with the information you’ve been given. This is especially true if, for whatever reasons, you’ve decided not to “follow doctor’s orders” with regard to medications.
 
I’ve come to understand over the years that some patients can feel intimidated or worried about pushing back or asking too many questions. If you are hesitant to have an open discussion with your clinician on any topic that is on your mind, one approach is to put your questions and concerns in writing. This may make the situation more comfortable both for you and for the provider. It’s a good way to get the discussion going and take it to a deeper level.
 
This is going to take awhile. If there is a “big,” yet non-urgent, item on your laundry list of health issues (e.g., incontinence, diabetes control, dementia concerns), let your physician know and ask if you can spend some significant time on it at your next appointment. Most providers are pleased to spend time educating you about the condition and the treatment options and helping you figure out what it means for your life. With a bit of advance notice, your clinician can properly plan and schedule for this type of appointment instead of rushing to squeeze it into a regular follow-up visit.
 
Be sensitive to your hard-working clinician. Now, in the Senior Care practice, because we’re set up to see only older adults, our providers are usually able to spend plenty of time with each patient (especially if they know ahead of time that you have extra or special concerns to address). Many primary care providers (family practitioners and internists), however, especially in rural areas, do not have that luxury and may only be able to spend 15 minutes or so with each patient. When this is the case, it’s essential that you, the patient or family member, are realistic, understanding, recognize the physician’s time constraints, and set expectations accordingly with a prioritized list. There will always be another opportunity at your next appointment to get to the additional items you want to discuss.
 
So, how do you make the most of every visit? Plan ahead for your appointment, prioritize your list of issues, and communicate openly and honestly with your primary care provider.How to Make the Most Out of Every Medical Visit
By Donald Murphy M.D.
Co-Founder, Senior Care of Colorado, PC
 

Plan, Prioritize, and Communicate

 
How to Make the Most of Every Medical Visit

iStock 000004826482SmallIf you’re like most people, you’ve probably accumulated more medical issues and concerns than you had earlier in life--some acute, some chronic; some may be serious and others may simply be nagging little problems. For many folks, it can seem like there’s never enough quality time with the doctor to talk about everything. So we’d like to give you some pointers, from a physician’s perspective, about how you can work with your clinician to make the most out of every visit.

   

Preventive Care Checklist

 
Focus on being healthy while you're already well
By David Palmquist, MD, Practice Group Leader

 

iStock 000011003108XSmallLong, long ago, Benjamin Franklin noted that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Even intoday’s environment of high tech medical procedures and sophisticated pharmaceuticals, Franklin’s observation holds true. There’s nothing better we can do for ourselves, at any age, than to strive for wellness by paying attention to our health before we get sick.

   

Seniors Sleeping Soundly


iStock 000009183787SmallGetting sound, refreshing sleep is vitally important to our good health and overall well-being. And sleeping well is a whole different ballgame when we get older. Younger people tend to get more deep sleep while older folks will pop in and out of sleep phases quicker. As a result, they spend less time in the deepest stages of sleep that give bodies the best possible rest.

   

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Senior Health Articles