Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seniors & Communication - 4 Important Issues

Medical Needs Must Be Communicated
Mr. S., an artist in his 80s, kept communicating to a friend a plaguing pain he was dealing with. Although Mr. S had seen his doctor for other issues he only communicated his current problem to a close friend, never his doctor. Finally, when he became too ill to ignore his problems, he went to ER and it turned out that he had an advanced stage of prostate cancer. Had Mr. S. communicated to his physician earlier of the pain he was experiencing his condition might have been curable.

When seniors do not communicate their issues and concerns to the health professionals treating them, they do not get the proper care they need. This results in less productive office visits, which in turn would likely end up costing them more (financially and health wise) as they might require additional follow up appointments to diagnose problems and if a condition were serious it might not be as treatable upon later diagnosis.


Physical Impairments Preventing Communication = Depression
The National Institute of Mental Health has proved the “relationship between hearing loss and depression” due to the social isolation the impairment causes. Additionally, I would add another couple impairments to this list: walking and writing.

Mrs. R, a good friend and elderly neighbor in her late 70’s, fell on pavement. Her fall resulted in a break of her right wrist and hip. She discontinued writing letters (because of her broken wrist) and shopping, eating out, or getting together with friends (because her walking was impaired by the accident.) It was even a chore for her to walk to answer her telephone. Although her body seemed to have healed several months later, she never returned to writing friends and family from out of state, she seldom answered telephone calls, and she gave up walking to do her own errands (shopping, bank, Laundromat). A once vital and independent person became socially withdrawn and very depressed once she no longer was able to communicate and perform the tasks she once had.

Lack of Communication With Regard to Government Benefits/Programs
It has been proven that “many retirees are not receiving an appropriate level of care or are ending up in nursing homes because they don’t know about services that would have allowed them to remain independent.” On the flip side of this, some seniors might not even be aware of programs or services that can help them afford retirement/assisted living homes, by significantly reducing their financial burden.

Mr. P, a WWII vet who recently moved into a retirement home, found he could benefit from Veteran’s Assistance when he was choosing his retirement home. The small 1-bedroom apartment in the transitional retirement to assisted living facility would have cost he and his wife $4,000 a month. However, because the home communicated the veteran’s discount to him, and provided him the necessary paperwork to fill out, he was able to register for a discount program that cut his monthly rent at the retirement home by 50%. For his $4,000 rental, he pays $2,000. For seniors living on fixed incomes, a financial saving of this proportion is crucial.

Senior Suicides and Mental Health Issues
It was most startling to learn of the number of suicides that take place among the senior population. While their percent of the population is just at 13.7%, they still make up “at least 25-30 percent of all successful suicides.” It is interesting and disturbing, how few senior suicides are brought to the attention of the public. Most news sources focus on suicides up through middle-aged adults. I actually cannot recall having heard of senior suicides before, other than in cases of the terminally ill where the individual chose when to end their life and suffering. This fact is one that should be communicated to society more widely. Without proper knowledge of issues such as senior addictions, senior mental health impairments and senior suicide rates, less attention is being paid to the very individuals who would benefit from the attention most.


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