Overcoming the Obstacles of Growing Older
A century ago, only four out of every hundred people in the United States were age 65 or older. Today, these seniors represent the fastest growing segment of the population. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy has increased from 47.3 years old in 1900 to nearly 80 years old in 2000.
While we can’t escape growing older, we can take precautions to ease some of the most common obstacles associated with aging. By identifying the challenges and offering solutions, seniors can better plan for their future well-being.
Below are some practical solutions that can ease the everyday challenges of aging:
1. TROUBLE MANAGING FINANCES
Challenge: Many seniors are no longer able to manage their finances due to physical or mental limitations associated with aging. Failing health and eyesight, and/or changes in social supports can leave seniors overwhelmed and unable to get bills paid in a timely manner.
Solution: Family members or other trusted individuals should talk to their loved ones about their finances. If they are receiving late fees and second notices on household bills, respond by helping them handle the mail, review the bills on a regular basis and put utilities in your name. If the senior is having problems with their checking account, missed payments, or increased credit card balances, respond by helping them consolidate debt, monitor their accounts, cut up credit cards, and challenge unknown charges.
2. MEMORY LOSS ISSUES
Challenge: Approximately 10 percent of adults 65 years and older, and 50 percent of adults over the age of 90, have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, often results in a loss of mental functions – such as thinking, memory and reasoning – that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning.
Solution: While a family history of Alzheimer’s and increasing age are considered risk factors, they don’t always lead to memory loss or dementia. To help minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, many experts suggest seniors adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, staying engaged in social activities with friends and family, eating a healthy diet and keeping their mind active.
3. LIVING INDEPENDENTLY
Challenge: Studies overwhelmingly show that seniors prefer the comfort, safety, and security of their own home. But as they age, older adults often find that simple tasks, such as preparing a meal, driving to a doctor’s appointment or cleaning their house can be a real challenge.
Solution: Home care agencies, such as Right at Home, offer a variety of highly personalized and flexible home care services at reasonable rates for as little as a few hours per week to as much as 24-hours a day. Services offered include light housework, meal preparation, medication reminders, shopping and errands, laundry, local transportation, companionship, bathing, and more. This type of help allows many seniors, who simply need some assistance with daily tasks, to continue to live independently within the comfort of their own homes.
4. DEPRESSION IN OLDER ADULTS
Challenge: Depression is not a normal part of aging, but unfortunately it is very common in the elderly. Depression affects about six million Americans age 65 and older, but only 10 percent receive treatment. Some signs might include feelings of worthlessness or sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, change in appetite, difficulty sleeping, agitation, irritability, or even abnormal thoughts about death or suicide.
Solution: Depression is a treatable psychological condition. Over time, even the most seriously depressed person can be treated successfully and return to a happier and more fulfilling life with the proper treatment. Family members or caretakers who suspect that the senior in their life is depressed should offer emotional support and see that the depressed person gets an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment from a trained mental health professional.
5. SLEEP AND AGING PROBLEMS
Challenge: More than 50 percent of men and women over age 65 complain of at least one chronic sleep problem. These issues include sleeping less, waking up more frequently, getting less deep sleep, experiencing more daytime tiredness, and taking more naps during the day.
Solution: Keep a regular sleep schedule, relax for a while before going to bed, make sure your sleep environment is quiet, comfortable and dark, eat only a light snack before bed, and clear your mind by writing down all of your concerns and worries before going to sleep.
6. SENIORS AND UNSAFE DRIVING
Challenge: According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services- Administration on Aging, changes that occur naturally with age, such as deterioration in vision, mobility and reflexes, often translate into changes in one’s ability to handle a car safely. But many seniors are reluctant to give up the freedom and convenience that driving allows them in terms of getting to medical appointments, traveling to the grocery store and socializing with friends.
Solution: Talk to your loved one about safety considerations. Explain transportation options, offer rides and visits, and emphasize monetary savings. Resources such as United We Ride (www.unitedweride.gov) can help to coordinate transportation resources for seniors.
Provided by: Right at Home Managing Director
For more information: www.RAHcares.com, 503-574-3674
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