Perspectives on Aging

Dear Counselor:

My father is 79 and still lives in the home he shared with my mother for 50 years. He gets around ok but still tries to do things in the same way as he did when he was younger and I worry about him falling and hurting himself. For example, yesterday I saw him climb on a step ladder to try and reach a tool stored on a top shelf in the garage. He wanted to hang a picture. I want to help him feel like he can still do things but he almost fell off the step ladder and was very shaky. What can I do to help him to learn to do things in a safe way without hurting his feelings? I worry about him falling all the time, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around, where the parents worry about the child?

Roles reversed in Rhode Island

Dear Roles Reversed:

Welcome to the reality that many other Americans are facing too at the moment, how to help care for elderly parents. First of all, you are not alone. By talking to others in your community who are or have dealt with similar issues you may begin to be able to turn that fear into practical ways to assist your father. You are right to be concerned about his dignity and autonomy and I’m delighted that you are considering so thoughtfully his feelings. Have you tried to talk with him directly about his safety and your concerns? Offer an example of your concerns and observations. Offer to help him rearrange things in the garage so that he won’t need a step ladder. The important thing is that he is assisted in being safe. Talking to your father’s primary care physician during his next appointment about your concerns is another strategy that can help get your father evaluated professionally regarding his adaptive needs in the home.

Dear Counselor:

My wife was diagnosed with osteoporosis last year. She really doesn’t think it is a big deal and says compared to cancer or heart disease she has it easy. She says she doesn’t notice any difference in what she can and can’t do because of her diagnosis so why should she take the medication her physician has recommended? I’ve seen some other women at our church really suffer with osteoporosis and know it can progress if not treated. How can I get her to take it seriously when she says she has no symptoms?


Stubborn in Seattle

Dear Stubborn:
Your concern shows how much you care about your wife’s well-being. By starting from the point of caring and wanting what is best for her she might see how important her looking after her health is to those around her like YOU! Talking directly to your wife about your fears may be step number 1. Then encourage her to ask her physician about the consequences of not taking her medicine. By equipping her with facts it might help her to face her own fears and make better choices for her health. That’s right, fear is often times what keeps people from making good healthcare decisions. By you telling her about your fears she may feel more able to talk about her own feelings.

Dear IT help:

My husband loves to use the computer. As a wheelchair user he has become fairly isolated with the problems of leaving the house. The internet and his computer have become his new friends. He has a hard time seeing the words on the screen. Can you recommend anything that can be done to help him see the screen better.

IT help:
Your modern computer operating systems provide accessiblity help for vision and hearing impaired. Look in your System Preferrence for Accessiblity if you are using a Mac. If are using Windows it depends on the version you are using. Windows 8 provides a number of solutions to customize the way the computer works to make using it easier to use and more to your liking.

I like to use the iPad to look up my health related questions. It makes me feel better to go into my doctor’s office with some knowledge. But how do I know that the information I read is good information? Is their a way to judge the quality of a website?

IT help:
This is a good question because I think you should be cautious about information on the internet. Not everything you read is correct or accurate. I suggest caution and common sense. Look at the source of the information you are reading. Generally, official sites for the American Medical Association or well know Universities and Schools of Medicine would be reliable sources.

Dear Doctor:

I am a 35 year old woman and my mom has osteoporosis. Are there any steps I can take now to prevent or reduce my risk?

Although osteoporosis is genetic and therefore limits exist in terms of prevention, through early detection and screening appropriate medical interventions can minimize the risks of injuries related to osteoporosis. Bone density screening beginning before menopause when a family history exists can help monitor bone loss and delay the onset of osteoporosis.

Can men get osteoporosis?

Yes! Bone health is an issue for men and women alike. However, in approximately 50% of the cases involving men osteoporosis is due to a secondary cause such as chronic alcohol abuse.

At what age should I start paying attention to my bone health?

It is never too early to think about bone health. Knowing your risk due to family history, lifestyle issues such as substance use and diet and medical conditions such as asthma that require long term use of steroid medications is the first step to understanding how to prevent falls and fractures later in life.