Facing the Challenges of Aging
All individuals have unique health care needs. Not surprisingly, for many people, these needs begin to change as they grow older. Multiple health challenges brought on by aging may require additional medical attention. Some individuals and their families also may face the difficult decision of whether to transition to a long-term care or assisted living facility, while still wishing to maintain continuity to their medical care.
But the aging process isn’t purely chronological. There’s plenty older adults can do to help slow the onset of aging.
- Eat right. It can never be said too frequently—a balanced diet of essential vitamins and minerals is one of the best keys to fighting off illness, whether it’s the common cold, heart disease or diabetes. In addition to the physical benefits, a proper diet also has been shown to boost memory function.
- Exercise. Even moderate exercise, such as walking once or twice a week, can have a substantial benefit for your health. Because exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killers, exercise also can alleviate the suffering of those with chronic pain or arthritis. And exercise helps improve learning and memory functions, and may even help encourage the growth of new brain cells.
- Put your brain to work. Don’t forget the importance of exercising your mental strengths as well. Reading, doing crossword puzzles or trying any of the many other “memory boosting” exercises will help sharpen these skills.
- Get involved. It’s been shown that people with strong friendships, relationships and other social ties are significantly less likely to develop dementia or suffer other memory problems than those who are generally alone and isolated. So join a group, volunteer or just set aside regular opportunities to be with friends and family.
- Have fun and relax. Who would have thought that having a good time could be good for your health? Both laughter and relaxation have been shown to boost the function of the body’s immune system, helping us to fight off common colds and other illnesses.
But how do you know when you or someone you love may be experiencing changes that require medical attention? If your medical concern affects your general well-being and overall quality of life, it may be time to consider a geriatric assessment.
A geriatric assessment is a comprehensive health evaluation specifically focused on the health needs of older adults. It considers the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. The assessment begins with a medical history and consultation. This is followed by a series of health evaluations and recommendations, designed to pinpoint specific medical concerns that are preventing older adults from achieving their own personal, optimal level of wellness.
After the evaluations are complete, the assessment team discusses with the patient treatment alternatives. If necessary, they also will arrange appropriate follow-up services using medical and community resources.
Some symptoms that might alert someone to the need for a geriatric assessment are:
- Memory loss
- Depression or frequent mood swings
- Variations in sleeping or eating habits
- Falls or dizziness
- Difficulty with usually simple tasks, such as preparing meals or managing money.
Within Alliance Primary Care, geriatric assessments are provided by a special group of doctors and staff called Senior Care Physicians. The interdisciplinary team includes physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse gerontologists, all of whom are experienced and specifically trained to work with the special concerns of older adults. The assessment team also may involve psychiatrists and social workers as needed.
Senior Care Physicians work closely with an individual’s own primary care physician to ensure there is continuity in the medical care provided.
A referral from your physician is recommended for a geriatric assessment, but it is not required. Alliance Primary Care currently offers geriatric assessments at selected community locations.
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