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Aging Well

Discussing Sensitive Subjects With Your Doctor

Much of the communication between doctor and patient is personal. To have a good partnership with your doctor, it is important to talk about sensitive subjects, like sex or memory problems, even if you are embarrassed or uncomfortable.

Most doctors are used to talking about personal matters and will try to ease your discomfort. Keep in mind that these topics concern many older people. It is important to understand that problems with memory, depression, sexual function, and incontinence are not necessarily normal parts of aging. A good doctor will take your concerns about these topics seriously and not brush them off as being “normal.” If you think your doctor isn’t taking your concerns seriously, talk to him or her about your feelings or consider looking for a new doctor.

Alcohol

Anyone at any age can have a drinking problem. Alcohol can have a greater effect as a person grows older because the aging process affects how the body handles alcohol. Someone whose drinking habits haven’t changed may find over
time that he or she has a problem. People can also develop a drinking problem later in life due to major life changes like the death of loved ones. In fact, depression in older adults often goes along with alcohol misuse. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be developing a drinking problem. You could say:
“Lately I’ve been wanting to have a drink earlier and earlier in the afternoon and I find it’s getting harder to stop after just one or
two. What kind of treatments could help with this?”

Falling and Fear of Falling

A fall can be a serious event, often leading to injury and loss of independence, at least for a while. For this reason, many older people develop a fear of falling.
Studies show that fear of falling can keep people from going about their normal activities, and as a result they may become frailer, which actually increases their risk of falling again.

If fear of falling is affecting your day-to-day life, let your doctor know. He or she may be able to recommend some things to do to reduce your chances of falling. Exercises can help you improve your balance and strengthen your muscles, at any age.

Feeling Unhappy With Your Doctor

Misunderstandings can come up in any relationship, including between a patient and doctor or the doctor’s staff. If you feel uncomfortable with something your doctor or his or her staff has said or done, be direct. For example, if the doctor does not return your telephone calls, you may want to say something like this:
“I realize that you care for a lot of patients and are very busy, but I feel frustrated when I have to wait for days for you to return my call. Is there a way we can work together to improve this?”

Being honest is much better for your health than avoiding the doctor. If you have a long-standing relationship with your doctor, working out the problem may be more useful than looking for a new doctor.

Grief, Mourning, and Depression

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