CINCINNATI—No matter your gender, race or where you live, there’s something every one of us has in common—aging. It’s a natural process we all go through, and in the next 25 years one out of every five Americans (72 million people) will be 65 or older.
“People naturally associate age with the length of time that’s passed since their birth,” says Charles Puchta, director of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing Center for Aging with Dignity. “Aging really has more to do with how we live and function, as opposed to our physical age or how we look.”
So how do you know if you or a loved one is aging normally?
“Normal or successful aging is being able to do all you want to do without being limited by disease, lack of energy or lack of financial resources,” says Puchta, a certified senior adviser.
Puchta suggests a better measure of age may be how functional people are versus how old they are. “When people face limitations that affect their daily living and quality of life, it can be hard to ask for help,” he says. “It can be a matter of pride and stubbornness—of having been self-sufficient most of their lives and not wanting to burden others.”
People who see family members regularly may miss the subtle impact aging or illness may have on their loves ones.
“Family members may not recognize the fact that mom or dad are struggling,” says Puchta. “It’s important to observe your loved one in a variety of situations to help you determine if there are day-to-day activities they’re having problems with.”
He suggests the following points can help people determine if it’s time to help loved ones address challenges they may be facing:
· Medical condition: Has your loved one been diagnosed with a disease, illness or other medical condition that could influence daily living activities?
· Driving: If your loved one drives, is there reason to believe he/she poses an above-average risk for being involved in an accident?
· Behavior: Does your loved one seem anxious or irritable? Does he/she seem depressed or forget names, places and current events?
· Daily tasks: Do basic tasks (e.g., getting ready to go out, preparing a meal, shopping, cleaning, etc.) seem overly challenging, frustrating or time-consuming?
· Medication: Can your loved one manage his/her medications properly, including dosage, frequency and changes to prescriptions?
“It’s important that people don’t wait until a crisis occurs before learning about resources available to help care for a loved one,” says Puchta. “If you have concerns, talk to your loved one in a casual and nonthreatening way to understand their perspective. A health-care professional can also offer information and guidance.”
According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 50 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year.
The Center for Aging with Dignity focuses on helping people understand their situation, find the information they need to take the appropriate action, and make informed decisions. The center is designed to complement existing services and organizations.
For more information on the center, call (513) 558-2428 or visit www.careadvocate.org.