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Resisting Change

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Have you ever wondered why someone you care about deeply doesn’t do what we think is best for them?  It may appear to you that they are stubborn.  They may resist walking, socializing, getting a home companion or moving when it is clear that their home has too many levels to safely navigate.

Before we rush to judge, let’s consider reasons why some older adults may be resistant to change and appear to take the path of least resistance. Read more »

Elderly, single woman not lonely but still suicidal

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Q: I do not like getting old. As a single woman I realize my chances of getting a partner are getting harder and harder. Unlike my female contemporaries who are happy just with their children, grandchildren, pets, hobbies, travel and job, I want romance and sexual intimacy. I have aged well until the last couple of years. And that bothers me a lot.

In fact, I have contemplated suicide but haven’t told my friends. They will think it’s because of depression. It’s not, because I keep myself constantly busy and despite feeling alone, I am not lonely. I just don’t want to grow old with decay, decline and discomfort. I have no family left, so other than my friends who would feel bad for a short while, none would mourn grievously. I have healthy organs which I would like to donate, but my research finds that organs are not accepted from suicide victims.

At least I am not denying I’m aging.

— V.U.

Dear V.U.: You have shared a lot. So first, thank you for your candor and reaching out to be heard.

Let’s talk about your situation. Clearly you are very unhappy at this time. There is no question — particularly if you have contemplated suicide — that this is serious.
Read more »

Putting in a good word for what to call older adults

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: I recently was in the grocery store when a young checkout girl called me “honey.” I found the term quite patronizing. I replied, “I’m old enough to be your mother and if I were your mother, you would have known better not to call me “honey.”

Also, I had an incident occur on my front lawn which drew the police to my home. (In its coverage) my local newspaper referred to my husband and me as an elderly couple. We both are 72 years old and don’t consider ourselves elderly. Am I the only one having trouble with our language?

– B.L.

Dear B.L.:

You are not alone. It’s understandable that you were offended.

But let’s take a closer look. In defense of the young checkout clerk, we don’t know her background. It may be a question of geography.
Read more »

Adjusting to change can be especially difficult for elderly

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: My 84-year-old cousin has been a widow for 10 years. She has been independent, positive, outgoing, attended lectures and all kinds of events – until she fell and injured her elbow. Although she recovered from the fall and injury, something has changed. She has stopped driving and now has a housekeeper who drives her. A relative pays her bills and balances her checkbook, although my cousin is mentally sharp. I think she is depressed and feels useless. Her children would like her to move out of her three-story home which she is resisting because of change and cost. How can I be helpful without being intrusive?

– S.H.

Dear S.H.:

As we age, the changes we encounter can test the best of us.

Let’s consider some reasons why older adults may appear to take a path of least resistance.
Read more »

The joke is on those who belittle older adults

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers:

Over the years, many have asked me to comment on public policy issues, political debates and other contemporary topics. My response has been the same: “I write about successful aging and avoid taking sides on important and often controversial issues.”

This week I’d like to change my tune, at least for this one column.

It’s about the recent Academy Awards telecast. It was a big event, with 39.3 million viewers; up 4 percent from last year.

And age seemed to be a consistent theme. Read more »

Change perception of cane use to ‘can do’

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: I am a 76-year-old woman who recently had back surgery. Before my back problems I was active and physically fit. Although I am grateful I can walk, I am unhappy using a cane. It makes me feel old and I wonder if others now see me as an old woman. Being 76 doesn’t make it any easier. How do I get over this?
– W.J.

Dear W.J.:

The good news is that you were fit before the surgery. That’s a big benefit to your recovery.

Kathy Gantner, a physical therapist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center, agrees and shares some of her views.
Read more »

Ask doctors, pharmacists for medication details

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear readers:

This week’s column continues our discussion of medication and older adults. The question is: What can we do to reduce chances of medication errors and complications?

We know that as we age, we take more medicine. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of more than 17,000 older adults found that of the 89 percent taking prescription drugs in the past year, nearly half (46 percent) take five or more; more than half (54 percent) have more than one doctor who prescribes medicine; and about one-third (35 percent) use more than one pharmacy.

There’s more: Among those with at least three chronic conditions, nearly 75 percent take five or more medications regularly. And 40 percent told researchers they had not taken all of their prescribed drugs because of costs. They also stopped taking their medications because they felt the drugs were not helping them or they didn’t think they needed them.
Read more »

Ensuring drug safety, effectiveness with multiple medications

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: My 84-year-old father is the primary care provider for my mother, who is 82. He is very much in charge. With the many prescription drugs she is taking, I am concerned about the combinations and dosages. I would like to give him some advice in a gentle way. Can you help?

– L.J.

Dear L.J.:

You have every right to be concerned.

Let’s start with some facts about older adults and medications. These are cited in the recent publication by the Gerontological Society of America titled “Acetaminophen and the Implications for Patient Care.”
Read more »

Scams (part 2)

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers,

This week’s column is a continuation of our discussion of financial scams perpetrated on older adults.  The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit service and advocacy organization for older persons, recently published the top 10 financial scams.

Perpetrators consider these scams as low-risk crimes because they are under reported and can be difficult to prosecute.

  1. Medicare frauds.  In these cases the scam artists pose as Medicare representatives and get personal information from the individual.  They often provide bogus services at makeshift mobile clinics and then use the information to bill Medicare and keep the money.
  2. Read more »

Scams (part 1)

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question. Recently some home-repair men were in my neighborhood and told me they would inspect my roof free of charge.  Since the roof is old, I thought the check-up was a good idea.  They found a problem and proceeded to repair it– I thought.  In our last rain storm, I was shocked when water dripped into my dining room.  I had to hire another repair man who told me the tiles had just been rearranged.  I am 82 years old and feel I was taken advantage of because of my age and perhaps the age of my house.  What can be done about this?  A.P.

Dear A.P.:

Unfortunately you have been the object of what is called “home-repair swindle,” a term used by Douglas P. Shadel and John T.  Shadel was a fraud investigator for ten years with the Washington office of the State Attorney General.  His co-author John T. was an expert on scams, spending a decade as one of the most notorious con artists in telemarketing fraud.
Read more »