Common Health Conditions Seniors Won’t Admit To
As your loved ones begin to age, they will inevitably face certain health problems they might not be comfortable admitting to. It’s not easy for anyone facing their golden years to concede the loss of some of the faculties they’ve taken for granted all their lives. Though seniors may not want to talk about certain health conditions, it’s important to be observant and offer support when needed.
Here are some of the most common conditions faced by seniors:
- Slowed Reaction Time
Slowed reaction time is a very common problem seniors struggle with. They may find driving is much more difficult because they are unable to keep up with the hustle and bustle of everyday traffic conditions.
In an effort to hide this problem, many seniors will simply neglect to mention minor traffic offenses such as running stop signs or taking out a mailbox on the way to the store.
They may blame it on the weather, another driver or even the incompetence of authorities; anything to draw attention away from their dwindling driving abilities.
- Visual Impairment
Visual impairment affects many seniors, inhibiting their ability to be as independent and mobile as they used to be. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, cataracts, and glaucoma are all common vision problems faced by older individuals. The need for glasses may be ignored and put off to avoid looking “old”. In the case of cataracts and glaucoma, visual impairment can become permanent without proper medical intervention.
- Hearing Impairment
It started with the television getting a little louder. Now, your loved one is asking you to repeat every other sentence. He or she doesn’t want to admit it, but hearing is starting to go. Conductive hearing loss is usually the result of inner ear wax build-up and can be easily corrected. Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by long-term noise exposure and certain medications. Older individuals with this type of hearing loss often have difficulty with lower tones but will have less trouble picking up the higher frequencies.
Depression often sneaks up on senior citizens before they realize what’s going on. Suddenly, they’re having difficulty sleeping, becoming more irritable, and isolating themselves from friends and family. In front of you, they may put on a brave face but inside, they’re worried about their inability to “snap out of” whatever is wrong. Seniors often become despondent when they no longer feel a part of the world around them. This can happen after retiring from an emotionally and financially-satisfying job.
- Mental Confusion
She can’t remember where she put her glasses. He’s looking right at you but can’t place where he knows you from. Mental confusion can be debilitating for seniors. The world they once knew and understood has now become a maze of confusion. Seniors will often delay treatment for symptoms of dementia because they simply don’t want to admit they’re losing their mental faculties.
The Best Way to Talk to Seniors about Their Limitations
If you’ve noticed that the senior in your life is struggling with certain health conditions they don’t want to admit to, it’s important to be sensitive to their feelings.
- Don’t Treat Them Like Children
It can be very tempting to talk to seniors like children when they start to show certain symptoms but resist the temptation. They know their health is failing and they don’t want to be reminded. It’s even worse coming from someone who appears to look down on them. Talk to them as though they’re grown adults deserving of respect (even if you have to speak up a little).
- Focus on the Positive
When you bring certain symptoms to their attention, focus on the positive. Explain the advantages of glasses, hearing aids, and other devices that might make living more enjoyable and fun. Explain that these devices and/or treatments are meant to enhance their quality of life, not make them feel older. If you have to install a walk-in tub or a custom made stairlift, for example, focus on the convenience instead of the possible injury they may sustain if they continue to ignore their health problems.
- Look at It From Their Perspective
When speaking to your loved one about his or her condition, it’s important to look at things from their perspective. Imagine if you suddenly couldn’t hear or see as well. How would you feel? Saying, “You can’t hear anything when I talk to you and it’s driving me nuts!” is not the way to go. The thought of wearing a hearing aid may be really embarrassing. Explain how technology has changed over the years. For example, there are plenty of invisible hearing aids on the market that might turn an awkward conversation around.
- Make Allowances for Mental Health Conditions
When an elderly loved one is experiencing depression or anxiety, tread lightly. Let them know you’ve made some observations and have concerns. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. This is very important. Pointing out ways you can “fix” the problem right away might make them feel broken or inferior. Mental health problems might only enhance these feelings and cause them to put up a wall and refuse to listen to anything you have to say.
Nobody wants to wave a banner and proudly declare they’re getting a little older. It’s tempting for them to pretend that their bodies and minds are just as sharp as they used to be. However, in order for seniors to keep their independence and live a healthy, fulfilling life, they should look at what they can do to improve it, even if it means admitting they need a little help.