Caring for an aging population: What healthcare workers need to know

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Advances in healthcare, science and medical technology have made life in the modern world drastically different from life even a few decades ago. The average life expectancy of humans has increased dramatically; even in developed worlds the life expectancy has increased by 15 to 20 years or more since 1950. People are living longer than ever, bringing some unique challenges to medical professionals as they try to adapt to a changing landscape of care.

Living longer with chronic illnesses

Prior to advancements in the medical field, certain diseases simply progressed until the patient died. Patients with illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease can now live longer with the appropriate treatment.

Healthcare workers need to be aware that simply managing the symptoms is not sufficient to keep patients well. Patients can develop serious side effects from these chronic illnesses. Small changes in these patients can slide under the radar due to the ongoing nature of their illness, but being proactive can ensure that these patients continue living their best lives, even in their sunset years.

Ethical concerns

An aging population also brings ethical concerns to the forefront. End of life decisions such as which life-saving measures should be taken, when to be hospitalized, and when to implement hospice and palliative care among a few of these.

Advanced directives have become even more important, giving patients and their families the power to decide which path is right for them during their final years. If the patient and their family can make these choices ahead of time they can help be proactive in their care and ensure that they have received the type of care that they desired, removing stress from these final years.

Prevention and Wellness among seniors

Our society has begun focusing more on wellness across all ages, but it is important that we don’t neglect our senior population. Encouraging seniors to continue, or even begin, an active lifestyle can have far reaching effects on their overall health.

Exercise can lead to reduced pain from chronic illnesses, increased mobility, reduction of pain, and increase of self-confidence. The benefits of exercise for our aging population should not be overlooked. Even those who are wheelchair bound can find benefits from exercise!

Providing Memory Care

With an increasing number of patients suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is more important than ever that healthcare workers are ensuring the safety and well-being of not only the patient but the patient’s family and others who may be helping to provide care. Caregiver burnout is a real risk for those family members who may be providing care for their family members afflicted with these diseases. Even though these family members aren’t patients themselves, healthcare workers should ensure that these caregivers are able to continue in the difficult work that they have.

An aging population gives the world the benefit of keeping our seniors around longer. Their wisdom, stories, and advice are priceless in this ever-changing world. We can all work together to ensure we keep them in the best health they can be for as long as possible.