Saturday, June 2, 2007

Senior's Month

Did you know that June is Senior’s Month? I didn’t until I paid a visit to the website of my favourite comic strip, For Better or For Worse, by Lynn Johnston. She has a wonderful story line about Elly’s father who is living with a stroke, and the love of his wife who is determined to help him recover.

As our population ages, this is going to happen more and more often, but we worry about if the resources will be there to help care for our aging seniors. Doctors’ practices are full and they can’t take new patients, clinics have waits that last hours on end and there’s little follow-up after someone is seen, emergency rooms are packed to beyond maximum capacity, and hospital beds are full. We have to be able to do more for them. Our seniors paid their taxes so we could go to school, see our doctors, and enjoy the quality of life that we enjoyed; now they need to be cared for.

For the longest time, the medical field didn’t identify a big difference between adults of any age. Medications and treatments for 30-year-olds were transferred over to 70-year-olds with less than spectacular results. Interest in geriatrics has grown though. Gerontology is a growing field in medicine and healthcare providers in all areas are also developing gerontology specialties: nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers, for example. The advantage to having a gerontologist looking after our seniors is the same as why we want pediatricians looking after our children, and surgeons doing our surgery. Family doctors can still play a large role in treating seniors, particularly if they know the life history of the patient, but there’s something to be said about someone who specializes in senior health.

So what can we do for our seniors? We can hassle our politicians to prioritize health dollars to be sure that our ill seniors have a place to go. Facilities have to be available so that healthier seniors can be kept at home for as long as is possible. Caregivers, the families usually, have to have the support to take on the role of caregiver, from medical support to respite care. If a caregiver isn’t healthy and cared for, they can’t give care. It’s as simple as that.

Many things that we take for granted aren’t senior-friendly. In Montreal, the metro stations with no escalators. What’s with that? How can anyone with limited mobility go down under ground and back up again without escalators or elevators? The huge snow banks that are left at corner bus stops in the winter and at intersections make it impossible for seniors to navigate, and don’t even think about them being able to walk on the ice when the sidewalks haven’t been cleared.

It’s not easy to solve a problem once it’s been developing over a lengthy period of time, but we need to start getting a real handle on it. If you want to help, but can’t convince others to take part, remind them that they, too, will be in that position one day. They may be the one who can no longer drive, but can’t use public transit because it’s not senior-friendly. It’s easy to ignore a problem that’s not affecting you, but we all grow older and any changes we make now, may end up helping us in the future.

Today's News:
Folic acid may lessen risk of stroke by 30%

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