Our Older Friends

Older adults are capable of learning new skills and taking care of themselves, though it might take them a little longer than it takes a younger person to do the same activity
"Almost 25% of older people aged 65-74 years and 50% of patients aged 75 and older have hearing problems."
"Almost 25% of older people aged 65-74 years and 50% of patients aged 75 and older have hearing problems."Special arrangement

BY DR. TASADUQ HUSSAIN MIR

According to the 2011 census of Jammu & Kashmir, there is almost 7.11% of the population between the age group 60 to 89. The age group 90-99 comprises less than 1% (0.18%).

If we take population growth into consideration my personal guess would be that these numbers might not change much. It is very important to know how we treat this population in the established healthcare system and what might need change or attention.

Before we delve into the possible changes or adjustments that might be needed we need to understand some age-related phenomenon that we might come across in this patient population.

Contrary to the common belief that all elderly people might have cognitive deficits and might not be able to comprehend and understand what their doctors and nurses or any other medical provider have to say, most elderly patients have only mild cognitive changes that do not interfere with their activities of daily life (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily life (IADLs).

Older adults are capable of learning new skills and taking care of themselves, though it might take them a little longer than it takes a younger person to do the same activity. Having said that there are some changes that might need attention.

Hearing loss, change in vision and muscle coordination might be compromised in the older population.

Almost 25% of older people aged 65-74 years and 50% of patients aged 75 and older have hearing problems.

Visual changes and cataracts in older people might lead to difficulty reading, driving in dark and walking around at home in the dark. Older adults who need assistance with ADLs increases with age.

While only 20% of adults aged 65-74 need assistance, this increases to 40% of men and about 50% of older women over 85 years of age. This means physicians and health professionals need to educate both patient and their loved ones about these possible changes and how small adjustments might be needed to take good care of this adult population.

These age-related changes might make it necessary to make some adjustments when we see older adults in the clinic. Some changes that might make it easier for our older adults is to make sure that we exercise patience when seeing older adults in the clinic as some of them might be a little slower.

Also, equally important is to speak in the same language that patients speak or use a certified interpreter to complete the visit. It is also very important to speak at a volume that our patients can hear. Prior to starting a detailed conversation, it is okay to ask patients if they can hear us.

We need to adjust our tone based on the patient’s comprehension. One of the things that might be helpful is to use the teach-back method to make sure that our patients understand what we discussed. This can easily be done by asking our patients to repeat what was discussed.

Dr Mir is Board Certified Family Medicine Physician in Texas, USA.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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