How to Handle Health Concerns With Seniors

Managing one’s health is one of the most important and personal responsibilities a person can bear. And the right to bodily autonomy may be one of humanity’s most significant, the rightmost deserving of the respect of others.

Unfortunately, that is what can make the issue of health management and seniors such a thorny one. If you have an elderly loved one, or if you are charged with the care of a senior, then attending to their wellbeing will be a paramount concern. But what happens when the senior in your life is perhaps unwilling to or incapable of taking care of their health? How do you handle health conditions affecting the senior in your life without compromising their right to privacy, independence, and bodily autonomy?

Understanding Seniors’ Healthcare Needs

When it comes to helping your seniors handle their health concerns, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Every individual is unique and that means that their healthcare needs will be as well.

Nevertheless, there are some realities that apply to almost all of us, and one of those is that you’re going to need more health monitoring as you age. Even for healthy seniors, an annual health checkup should be the bare minimum.

After the age of 70, though, medical consultations generally need to become more frequent, with preventative care, including cancer screenings, immunisations, and cardiovascular care a particular concern. In addition, because the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias increases significantly with age, frequent and regular interaction with healthcare providers is essential for detecting and addressing early signs of cognitive decline.

Smoothing the Way

There’s no question that making (and keeping) health appointments can be a tremendous hassle for any of us. For seniors, however, managing your healthcare can feel nearly impossible. This is especially true for those with memory challenges. Similarly, if your senior has trouble with mobility or problems with driving, the prospect of getting to the physician, physical therapist, ophthalmologist, or dentist can be daunting at best, and paralyzing at worst.

That means that one of the best things you can do to help your seniors manage their health concerns is to take the lead in scheduling and preparing for appointments. In addition to setting the appointments, you can also ensure that your loved one receives frequent reminders by posting a printed schedule in an easy-to-access place to setting digital reminders on their smartphone or computer.

In addition to managing appointments and setting reminders, you can also help your loved one with the logistics of the appointment. For instance, if they cannot drive themselves and you aren’t available, then go ahead and make the transportation arrangements with a family member or even a home care aide. In addition, if your loved one needs assistance in preparing for the appointment, a home care aide can assist with grooming and dressing. If your loved one has more specialised needs that require the assistance of a trained medical worker (i.e. if your senior uses a ventilator and requires particular care during transport), then insurance will cover most, if not all, of the costs of a licensed home health worker.

Communicate and Empathise

If you are trying to help seniors in your life manage health conditions, one of the first and most important things that you can do is seek to understand and empathise with them. This is especially vital if your senior is reluctant to seek care.

This needs to start with prioritising communication. Ask questions and engage in a respectful, empathetic dialogue with them, and once you better understand their concerns and their reluctance, partner with them to formulate a solution. Perhaps they need your help in finding another care provider. Perhaps they fear seeming weak or vulnerable and would like someone outside the family to transport them to their appointments.

Whatever the reason may be, your job is to cultivate a loving and honest conversation that will enable you and your senior to work together to overcome the obstacles that are keeping them from the care they need.

Supporting a Senior in a Health Crisis

It’s a simple fact of life that, sooner or later, we all will get sick. Your senior may be experiencing significant illness for the first time in their lives. They may, for instance, find themselves facing their first hospitalisation. That can be deeply distressing, but there are important things you can do to help them feel less anxious and more comfortable.

For example, if visits are permitted, then make it a point to visit whenever you can. While you’re there, keep the mood and the conversation light. And come bearing gifts that can help your senior pass the time and feel more at ease, from family photo albums to a favourite blanket to books and crossword puzzles. You might even gift them with subscriptions to favourite streaming services, such as Netflix, iTunes, or Audible.

The Takeaway

It’s not always easy to ensure that the senior in your life is taking care of their health. However, there are important things you can do to help them handle health concerns. This should include lending emotional support, prioritising communication and understanding, and helping your senior schedule and prepare for appointments.

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