/publications/issue/2004/2004-05/2004-05-7945

Aging Brings Changes

Author: Lauren S. Schlesselman, PharmD

Americans today are living longer than their parents and grandparents did. Due to the ?baby boom,? the number of Americans over the age of 65 is growing. In 2000, 35 million Americans were more than 65 years old, and 9 million were more than 80 years old. In the next 30 years, the number of elderly people is expected to continue to grow.

Americans are living longer because we are taking better care of ourselves and because of improved health care. No matter how well we care for ourselves, as we age our body shows signs of decline. Common changes include vision loss, hearing loss, joint pain, and memory loss.

Eyes

Several eye problems are common as people age:

Ears

Hearing loss is common among older people. It is hard for many people to admit that they have a hearing loss. Instead, they may insist that everyone else is speaking softly. It is often difficult for family members and caregivers when the older person has to turn up the volume on the television.

With time and patience, a hearing aid can be very helpful. Getting used to it is not easy. Taking the time to find the right one and having it fitted properly are important. After buying a hearing aid, the person must take the time to learn how to insert it, clean it, control the volume, and replace the battery.

Joint Pain

As we get older, we often have trouble moving around. This difficulty is frequently caused by joint pain. This pain is likely to be due to arthritis or gout. Nearly 1 of every 3 Americans has arthritis. Arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness, tenderness, redness, and warmth in the joints. Treatment includes medication, exercise, and surgery. The earlier that arthritis is treated, the better is the outcome.

Staying Healthy

These changes in our body can cause stress. Stress can wear down the body, both mentally and physically. To prevent the body from wearing down, we must have a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips for a healthy lifestyle and for reducing stress:

Caregiving

If you are not currently acting as the caregiver for a parent or spouse, you may be some day soon. One of every 4 Americans is a caregiver. In order to be a caregiver, you will have to be prepared. You will need information on legal, financial, physical, and emotional challenges.

Help and Information

The Internet has a lot of information for elders and caregivers. When looking at Web sites, be careful about what you read. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid Web sites that are trying to sell something.

Here are some helpful sites:

The government Web sites (Administration on Aging, CMS, and Medicare) give information about locating care, hiring home care help, finding transportation, getting long-term care insurance, comparing nursing homes, and understanding health care benefits.

Dr. Schlesselman is a clinical pharmacist based in Niantic, Conn.