Friday, July 27, 2007

Aging and illness

Dealing with illness in the family has a great impact on the entire family. The person who is ill is scared and in many cases may be facing serious illness for the first time in their life. Their loved ones, be it their spouse or their children, find themselves charting unknown territory with a whole host of unknown medical terms, treatment choices and very little time to make life altering decisions. Here are some helpful tips that may make the difference in the life of your loved one.

Illness can strike anyone at anytime. Elderly people, especially those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, may be putting themselves at greater risk by waiting too long to seek medical attention. If there is any major change in your health, do not wait to seek medical attention. Treatments, especially surgery, are higher risk procedures for seniors and people with a compromised immune system or other pre-existing conditions. For the medical team charged with a persons care, they will want to ensure that all tests and non-invasive treatment options are explored before moving to this higher, more risky level of treatment. These tests take time and, if the person is not in immediate danger, it may be several days before a final treatment decision is made. While these tests and decisions are being made, the ill person will be hospitalized. They may find themselves hospitalized for longer then expected due to the length of time required to stabilize them and get their body to be ready for surgery. Although the procedures for surgery have improved significantly, it is still a risk and no medical team wants the cure to put the person at greater risk.

Unforeseen complications arise from anesthetic, drug reactions and side effects from drugs. An additional risk may be caused by just being in a hospital environment where the exposure to germs and other viruses is increased. A body already stricken by illness can be further compromised.

Family members find themselves trying to manage their already hectic day-to-day schedules while now dealing with the added need to visit their family member in hospital. Hospital staff is stretched to the maximum and many families find that the only way to ensure that the comforts of their family member are met is to be there to do things themselves.

We know our own bodies and we know when something is not right. If you believe that something is seriously wrong, seek immediate care. The health care system is there to be used and the best gift you can give to your family members is to seek treatment and do not put it off thinking that you will get better on your own.