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Challenges of The Elderly

An awareness of challenges which confront the elderly is key to understanding and helping them cope at this time of their life.

    Miriam use to be able to play tennis well.  She was unbeatable then, but now she can hardly throw a paper ball across a room.  Miriam is elderly.  Her physical strength has lessened tremendously.  She is now 75 years old and slowly going down in her capabilities.  Like so many elderly people, Miriam now needs her family and friends to understand why she can no longer do what she use to do, and how her age and general health are influencing her daily routines and behaviors. 

    Each person, as they reach their golden years have different functions.  However, there are overall general things that confront all categories of the elderly.  Here are some: 

  •  The reactionary time of the elderly begins to diminish with age.   Don’t expect your older loved one to drive the car as well as they use to years ago.  Don’t even expect them to get up and answer the telephone with as much haste as in former years.  Give them time to a little more time to come to the phone. 
  • Many older people eat less than in their younger days.  A healthy appetite for an elderly person may be eating two good meals throughout the day.  When they refuse an abundance of foods, do not feel they are being indifferent.  Understand that their bodies are no longer calling for a store of food. Most elderly people eat the amount of food that they need. 
  • Older people still like to be respected within their families and spheres of influence.  This means that the elderly still like to have the basic control of their belongings and a say in what is going on around them.  As long as they have a rational mind, they need to be included in family decisions and anything relating to their well-being.   Never dip into their personal finances without their consent.  Try to keep things in their immediate environment the way they like it to be kept.  Do not upset them with contention and arguments.  They are not able to readily deal with those things. 
  •  Simple tasks may no longer be achieveable.  As the elderly decline in their strength, little tasks such as washing dishes, cleaning the house,  and taking out the trash may take a longer time, and in some cases, cannot  be done at all.  Many elderly require part-time housekeepers to assist them in keeping their surroundings clean and neat. 
  • Mobility issues will eventually confront every older person.  Walking, standing, sitting, climbing, and executing tasks over long periods of time, though doable in their younger years, become almost insurmountable tasks for the elderly.  They may be able to do these tasks, but for limited amounts of time.  Special beds, chairs, and mobility devises can assist them in pacing themselves. 
  • Hearing impairment and loss of hearing does become the lot of many elderly, especially those who have lived in an environment where loud music raged continuously.  Hearing aids, specially designed phones, and other equipment may be needed to restore their hearing back to a next-to normal function. 
  • Incontinency plagues many older people.  Even when an individual reaches the age of 60, they may feel that their bladder control has lessened.  Adult diapers and pads may be necessary to give them the confidence to go out in public or perform their daily routine without accidents.  It is up to the family members to make these conventions available for their loved one, making sure that they are able to feel comfortable as they avoid embarrasing situations. 
  • Not all elderly people need eyeglasses, but many require them in order to read or see far away objects.  All elderly people need yearly eye exams  so that their eyesight does not deteriorate.  In cases where glaucoma and cataracts exist, there is treatment and surgery available to help them to be able to see nominally. 
  • Phobias, fears, and even paranoia is often common among the elderly.  As they get older, they feel their helplessness.  With this feelings comes the overwhelming idea that they will be prey to people or things that will harm them.  Overcoming these fears will take the understanding of family, friends and those who attend the elderly.  Sometimes professional help is needed. 
  • Keeping a simple routine is key for helping the elderly to feel secure.  One lady, whom we’ll call Mrs. Baxter, ate one scoop of ice cream following her evening meal each day.  That one scoop of vanilla ice cream was habitiual, and without it, she did not feel that she had enjoyed a well-rounded meal.  Things like this help the elderly to feel in charge, and give them satisfaction of thinking nothing much is changing around them.  Most older people, ages 60 and up do not like change, especially radical change. 
  • Cheerful surrounds are important to keep the spirits of the elderly up.  Even if it means new furniture of their choice, freshly painted walls, new carpeting or flooring, the elderly need to have a beautiful living space where they can enjoy good thoughts.  Filth and untidiness will put them in a despairing attitude.  Family members, friends, and those who attend to the elderly may also bring them live plants and small pets of their choice.  Since pets require attention, be sure the pets can be attended to by those other than the elderly person. 
  • Sitting on the screened porch, going for a gentle walk, sitting in the back yard under a canopy are ways the elderly can enjoy the outdoors.  There is refresment in these simple pleasures, but they will help to add tons of joy to your older loved ones lives.   Some gentle form of exercise or therapy will also help them keep mobile. 
  • Keep as much bad news away from the elderly members of your family.  They cannot do anything about the bad news.  It is depressing and they need to be kept cheerful as much as possible.  If you just must break to them bad news, let it be at a time when you feel they can bear it.  Even depressing news on the tv can cause them needless distress.  Do everything you can to keep them bouyed up in spirit. 

      As you consider the challenges of the elderly, you will understand that the challenges will increase over time.  With this in mind, it behooves everyone to make the golden years of life precious, full, and overflowing with love, respect, and joy for those we love and hold so dear to our hearts.

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