The timely path to senior wellness

Preventive Measures and Early Intervention
Representational Image
Representational ImageSpecial arrangement

After retiring, Abdul Rashid experienced joint pain and an irregular sleep cycle as a result of his sedentary lifestyle. Instead of consulting a doctor, he frequently visited a local medical shop.

The unlicensed practitioner recommended painkillers and sleep tablets, which Abdul Rashid continued to take for several years. Eventually, he developed kidney failure and required dialysis. The delay in seeking proper medical services is a common issue among senior citizens, leading to the progression of diseases and difficulties in daily life.

With advancements in medical technology and health policies, a growing population of senior citizens is experiencing increased longevity. Epidemiological studies indicate that 11% of the world's population is over 60 years old, a number projected to reach 22% by 2050.

However, this increased lifespan poses new challenges for healthcare and society, as seniors have a higher risk of cancer and chronic diseases due to ageing. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in enabling faster recovery, improved prognosis, and reduced medical expenses.

However, the issue of delayed medical visits and treatment is a significant and widespread problem among senior citizens. Physicians often encounter senior patients who ignore symptoms of diseases until their lives are significantly impacted.

This behaviour ultimately leads to longer treatment periods, increased complications, and a worsened prognosis. Consequently, delaying treatment can result in disease progression and a decline in overall quality of life. Moreover, this delay in seeking medical care places significant economic and mental strain on family members and leads to a substantial waste of healthcare resources, which negatively affects the ageing population.

To illustrate this point, let's consider the case of a retired professor who postponed cataract surgery, thus complicating his eye condition. The professor admitted that his negligence regarding medical attention had a detrimental impact on his daily life.

Despite living with his spouse and children, his family members likely failed to notice his deteriorating condition or encourage him to seek medical help. Studies have shown that 80% of senior citizens ultimately seek treatment due to the adverse effects on the quality of life.

In many cases, family members often provide limited attention to the healthcare needs of senior citizens. Research has indicated that perceived neglect and reduced care are associated with an increased risk of mortality in the general senior population.

Therefore, it is crucial for younger family members to prioritise the health status of senior citizens and educate themselves about common age-related diseases and their early symptoms. Younger individuals bear the responsibility of caring for the health of the elderly and accompanying them to medical appointments when needed.

It is a common observation that many senior citizens visit hospitals without any attendants, that is classified as one form of elder abuse. Senior citizens with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart ailments, which require regular monitoring, are especially vulnerable to complications if their care is postponed.

In her 88th year, Zoona, a widowed lady with a heart condition, high blood pressure, and incontinence, resides alone in her cherished home. Despite managing her health fairly well, recent falls have made showering a daunting task, compelling her to wait for her daughter's support.

Regrettably, Zoona's son has deserted her, leaving Nusrat, her nearby-living daughter, to assist with shopping, showering, and organising medications during their weekend visits. Surface appearances suggest everything is fine, but during Nusrat's latest visit, she notices Zoona's significant decline in strength compared to a few weeks prior.

Nusrat wonders if this accounts for the increased frequency of falls. Zoona's incontinence has worsened, and signs of confusion, disorientation, and forgetfulness become evident. Zoona, whose medication regimen has been disrupted, displays uncharacteristic behaviour.

Nusrat mentally notes the need to contact Zoona's doctor and arrange an appointment, but the demands of a busy work week cause her to forget. Then, on a fateful Friday while at work, Nusrat receives an urgent call from Zoona's concerned neighbour, who hears her cries for help.

Zoona had accidentally locked herself inside after a fall while attempting to shower alone, resulting in a fractured hip. Sadly, she loses much of her independence and must move into her daughter's home. Zoona, who never wished to be in this situation, couldn't bear the pain of her son's neglect and eventually passes away in the comforting embrace of her daughter's home.

When it comes to our health, especially for seniors, it's important to address issues promptly and take preventive measures. Providing timely care for older adults improves efficiency, reduces mortality, and doesn't require extra resources.

There are several preventive health measures available, including screenings, counselling for a healthy lifestyle, immunizations, and medication. Senior citizens should receive these measures on time, supported by social connections.

Timely assessment of mental health is crucial to prevent negative outcomes. Evaluations and questionnaires help understand their behaviour and capabilities.

Degenerative diseases like memory loss can start years before diagnosis, so early intervention can slow them down. Assessing cognitive skills and providing exercises can boost self-esteem. Loss of mobility and skills can impact mental health, so regular check-ins are essential for correct diagnosis and treatment.

Psychological tests help reach conclusive results, and therapy provides a fresh start, motivation, and enjoyment in life. Seniors can engage in hobbies, games, and puzzles to improve cognitive skills and enhance their well-being. If you notice any of these issues in your loved ones, don't hesitate to seek help and support them during this time.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and a Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

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.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir