Home | Spirituality |Topics | Presentations | Sites and Resources | Contact Us | Donate


Return to Topics 

Understanding Aging

          Throughout our lives, our bodies change. As long as a human body is living, itís growing older. So how can you tell if your loved one is developing a new and potentially serious health problem, or if what you see is simply part of what could be called the natural aging process?

     The temptation is to assume that a new problem your care-receiver develops is one every older person experiences and that nothing can be done about it. Not necessarily.

     Take being confused, for example. Doesnít everyone, if he or she lives long enough, develop some form of mild dementia? Yes, the chances of developing a form of dementia (Alzheimerís disease being only one of the possible diagnoses) increase with age, but there are other reasons a senior might be confused. Maybe Dadís metabolism has changed, and a medicine heís taken for years is now causing side effects. Or the problem is a new medicine combined with what heís already taking. Maybe, without your knowledge, Mom is drinking more than she used to. Maybe she has had a small stroke.

     Itís a good idea to do some research and then ask your loved oneís primary physician about the ďnormalĒ aging process ó what, in general, is to be expected ó and keep the doctor up to date on whatís happening with your care-receiver. If you see something new, ask the doctor about it. Itís a good idea to consult with the physician even if you think what you see is to be expected with any chronic condition your loved one may have. (And itís important for you to know the usual progression of that condition as well.)

     For example, your mother has arthritis, and sheís having more pain and more difficulty using her hands. Yes, her condition may grow worse over time, but perhaps a more effective medicine or treatment will help as the inflammation reaches this new stage. Would physical therapy help her feel better, and is it available? Would occupational therapy or an adaptive device make it easier for her to perform daily tasks like holding a fork or using a zipper? Ask about these things.

     Donít compare your care-receiverís condition or symptoms with another older personís. Maybe your best friend noticed that her father was growing hard of hearing, and he now wears a hearing aid. You notice your fatherís hearing isnít what it used to be, but you hesitate to bring up the subject with Dad or his doctor because youíre fairly certain getting your parent to accept a hearing aid would be a tremendous battle. At the same time, Dad has noticed the trouble heís having, and heís worried but too frightened to say anything about it.

     While you both tiptoe around the subject, the source of your fatherís problem may be nothing more than wax buildup in his ears. His doctorís nurse could quickly and easily take care of it and give both of you tips on how to avoid the problem in the future.

     In other words, donít assume that you understand what you are seeing, and donít assume that thereís little to be done about it. Remember that while you and your loved one may become very good at spotting and diagnosing a change or a problem, thatís not the same as having an objective health-care professional evaluate whatís happening. Let that person be the one to decide if itís an inevitable part of the aging process.

Return to Topics 

Home | Spirituality | Topics | Presentations | Sites and Resources  | Contact Us | Donate
© 2004-2013 Friends of St. John the Caregiver
YourAgingParent.com is a program of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.