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Lifestyles over 50

How To Keep Dad and Mom as Healthy as Possible

Jul 12, 2023 12:27PM ● By Mary DeHaven, St. Luke's University Health Network
Having observed Father’s Day, Alaa Mira, MD, chief, Geriatric Medicine, St. Luke’s University Health Network, reminds us of the importance of helping aging parents manage their health care.

Preventative health care improves both your loved one’s health and quality of life. Vaccinations reduce the risk of getting life-threatening illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. Screenings identify diseases in their early, most treatable stages.

Chances are your father and mother might benefit from your help in managing preventive health care, he says. Juggling multiple providers and appointments can be confusing for anyone but even more so for older adults. You may need to remind them to schedule needed health care, such as their annual physical. Some older adults also need assistance making calls or getting to the doctor’s office.

“Preventive care can have significant benefits,” he adds. “For example, routine blood work can identify a health condition that can be treated easily. By identifying and treating the problem, your loved one will likely feel better. In addition, we can often reverse or slow the progression of the disease.”

Also, make sure they receive vaccines and boosters. Keeping up-to-date will reduce their risk and lower the severity of illness should they have a breakthrough case.

When discussing your parent’s health, Dr. Mira suggests approaching the topic delicately. Offer help while allowing your mother and father to make decisions as they are able. Have a list of screenings and vaccinations in hand so you can discuss them together. Finally, if unsure what preventive health care your loved one has received, see if you can schedule a conversation with your parent and the family physician.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Mira, call 484-526-7035.
Dr. Mira’s 10 Important Preventive Steps for Older Adults
1. Influenza All adults should consider getting an annual flu shot and periodic COVID boosters. However, with advanced age, the risk of having serious complications from the flu increases, particularly if you have poor health. About 85% of people who die from influenza are 65 and older.
2. High blood pressure screening All older adults should have regular blood pressure screenings. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age and is a leading indicator of diabetes and heart disease.
3. Cholesterol screening Men aged 35 and women aged 45 who are at risk for coronary heart disease should be tested. Risk factors include high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, and having a personal or family history of heart disease.
4. Diabetes screening Nearly one in four adults age 60 and older has diabetes, and many more are at risk of developing it. Diabetes screening is vital if you have sustained blood pressure greater than 135/80 mm Hg. Efficient detection and treatment of diabetes can prevent the progression of certain diabetes-related complications and reduce the risk of heart and vascular disease, including stroke and heart attack.
5. Colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 45 and continuing to age 75 or longer if you’re in good health. Two-thirds of new cases of colorectal cancer are in people 65 and older. We also recommend breast cancer and prostate screening.
6. Osteoporosis screening for women age 65, or age 60 for women with increased risk of fractures. Screening may lead physicians to implement management strategies that may decrease fractures.
7. Pneumococcal vaccination Every person 65 or older should receive this vaccine. Older adults are more likely to get—and develop complications from—pneumonia.
8. Vision tests Older adults should have a comprehensive test every year or two. Vision disorders that become more prevalent as you age include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, and glaucoma. Early detection and treatment help you retain good vision.
9. Hearing screening Adults 55 and older should get their hearing tested at least once a year. Hearing loss is a normal part of aging. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
10. Depression evaluations Though not a normal part of aging, many older adults suffer from depression. A loss, such as a death or retirement, can cause depression. Talk to a doctor if you or someone you care about shows signs of depression, such as tiredness, trouble sleeping, or irritability.