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Frequently Asked Senior Health Questions

Is it safe for my mom to live alone?

Most older adults have a strong desire to continue to live independently and are willing to risk their safety for this. However, most children put a higher value on safety and want to intervene with help in the home or a suggested move. At the Summa Health Senior Health Center, we evaluate a person’s functional status and memory to help recommend when and if additional help is needed or an alternative living situation should be considered.

Is it ok that my dad still drives?

Many older adults will have to give up driving at some point. Seniors that are cognitively intact but have physical problems such as poor mobility, impaired vision or medication side effects will often retire from driving when they feel unsafe. Patients with dementia or memory loss do not have this insight. At the Summa Health Senior Health Center, we can evaluate memory and make recommendations about driving safety. We have arrangements with occupational therapists and driving instructors that can help in borderline cases. This is a very difficult issue for adult children to deal with; we will be sure you have the help and support you need to make this decision.

What can I do to be sure my mom remembers to take her medications?

There are many strategies that can be employed to help with medication compliance, including simplifying the regimen, providing pill boxes or more high tech gadgets that alarm when a pill needs to be taken. Our geriatricians and geriatric nurse practitioners will evaluate the medication list and collaborate with your PCP or specialists to minimize the risks of harm. Our social workers can help families evaluate and implement these kinds of tools.

I keep hearing about older adults falling victim to financial scams. What can I do to be sure that doesn’t happen to my dad?

It is often difficult to bring this subject up. One clue might be that he is getting more and more mail requesting donations to various charities or congratulating him on winning sweepstakes. Most older adults will not want to give up control of their finances, but they might be willing for you to have online access to monitor for fraud. At the Summa Health Senior Health Center we will evaluate your dad’s cognition and help determine if he is able to manage his finances with a little oversight or if it is recommended that he give up this responsibility to someone he trusts.

My mom doesn’t seem to be cooking much anymore. She says she is “tired of it.” Is that normal?

While it is possible that she has just spent enough time in the kitchen, this is may be a sign of a problem. Not doing activities she has always done, such as cooking, cleaning or paying the usual attention to her appearance might suggest memory loss or depression. Bring this to your doctor’s attention or consider a geriatric assessment.

How can I start a conversation with my parents about their healthcare wishes for the future?

Sometimes this subject is best introduced by telling your parents your wishes, especially if you have completed a living will or a durable power of attorney. Then you can ask if they have ever thought about similar issues. At the Summa Health Senior Health Center, we try to illicit advanced directives from all patients, even providing forms to make this process as easy as possible.

My mom seems to be repeating herself. Is that normal aging or something I should be worried about?

Repeating an occasional story is probably normal aging. However, repeating the same thing over and over again in a short period of time may be a sign of a more serious memory problem and should probably be evaluated.

My dad just isn’t doing as well as he used to be. How do I get a broad picture about what’s going on?

A geriatric assessment would be the place to start. Our interdisciplinary team will evaluate everything from his medications to his ability to manage his activities of daily living to his memory and more. We will create a care plan and share it with his primary care physician to help maximize his function and keep him independent as long as possible.

My mom is 80 and doing well. Is there something we should be doing to help her stay healthy?

Encourage her to keep busy! Physical and social activity is probably the closest thing we know to a fountain of youth. Recommend a good night’s sleep, a well balanced diet and don’t smoke. Ensure she sees her primary care physician regularly.

I am the only one helping to care for my parents. Is there someone that can help me?

Many caregivers neglect themselves trying to help their parents. It is important to get help for this very difficult job. An assessment in the Summa Health Senior Health Center for your parents will help identify what type of help would be most beneficial and provide referrals to take advantage of the help that is out there.

My mom has taken a few falls in the past several months. Fortunately, she has not hurt herself. Is this normal or something I should be concerned about?

While falls are common, they should never be considered normal. An evaluation for all the risk factors that contribute to falls is complicated. You should have your mom evaluated either from her primary care doctor or through our falls risk reduction services. We will evaluate vision, hearing, gait, balance, muscle strength, mood, cognition and medications— all areas that are shown to predispose an older adult to falls. We will recommend physical therapy if needed and possibly even send someone to the home to evaluate it for safety hazards.

My dad has withdrawn socially and doesn’t seem to be enjoying many of the things he used to. How can I find out if he is depressed?

Social withdrawal may be related to many geriatric syndromes including hearing impairment, medication side effects, early dementia or depression. At the Summa Health Senior Health Center, we will screen for all these problems to help determine the cause and institute appropriate treatment. If depression seems to be the most likely diagnosis, our geriatricians can prescribe medications or refer him to our psychiatry team— including a geropsychiatrist, a nurse practitioner or psychologist. We can also provide information about depression in older adults to the patient and family so they can better understand this problem.

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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.