Caring for elderly patients

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Woman with elderly patient
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How can society best care for elderly patients?

Caring for elderly patients can be a daunting task for even the most experienced caregiver. An active life style always indicates a person, whether elderly or not, that is connected with the world.
Energy supplements and formulas hold an important place within a healthy life plan, but they must exist in tandem with as active a lifestyle as suits the individuals needs and abilities.

Why is activity such an important factor in caring for elderly patients?

Caring for elderly patients can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a demonstration of concern for the person involved, but on the other, the paramount feeling when a patient cannot no longer do the things for themselves that they used to do is uselessness, which leads to sadness, laziness and self-loathing. Patients may eat more and start to gain weight, and actually decline in health. If that is the case, then there is no better time for these individuals to get off that couch and start moving.

Be realistic. No one expects to see Michael Flatley's Riverdance dance troupe performed before his or her very eyes or a marathon winner shake hands at the finish line. In all honesty, most people couldn't do either of those and so why should anyone else? Cardiovascular health means so much more than just medication and supplements and there is no substitute for physical activity.

Caring for elderly patients does not require strenuous exercise, but rather a combination of mind and body exercises. Activities need to be fun for both the patient and the caregiver. A simple game of cards or checkers counts as mental exercise as well as the more difficult brain games such as bridge, mahjong and puzzles. Physical exercise runs the same gamut and can include a walk around the family yard or a trip to the local park to do some bird-watching.

How does physical exercise enhance the process of caring for elderly patients?

According to the most recent research, physical exercise causes more of a blood flow to our brains and bodies. Physical activity for senior citizens is so important because the blood flow provides the body with more oxygen, which in turn clears the mind. Keeping active can do much, especially when caring for eldery patients, to alter moods and prevent insomnia. It has also been known to increase memory function within the senior population.

What can medical schools do to alleviate some of the problems that arise in caring for elderly patients?

According to a recent article published in The New York Times written by physician, Dr. Rosanne M. Leipsig of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, American medical schools require no training in geriatrics even though elderly patients comprise a significant proportion of all the patients for which younger doctors will eventually provide care. In her own words:

All doctors in training are required to have clinical experiences in pediatrics and obstetrics, even though after they graduate most will never treat a child or deliver a baby. Yet there is no requirement for any clinical training in geriatrics, even though patients 65 and older account for 32 percent of the average doctor's workload in surgical care, 43 percent in medical specialty care, and they make up 48 percent of all inpatient hospital days. Medicare contributes more than $8 billion a year to support residency training, yet it does not require that part of that training focus on the unique health care needs of older adults.

It would seem that the process of caring for elderly patients leaves much to be desired. Hopefully, time and attention will change this most disturbing reality.

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