In your later years, it’s more important than ever to make regular trips to your doctor. Seniors tend to have an increasing number of health problems and they usually need a little extra attention as a result — especially in the form of preventive care. However, it seems that many elderly people are not going to these critical visits because of anxiety or depression.
This finding came from a study at the Duke University Center for Aging. Researchers looked at data from a cross section of 3,655 elderly people who still lived within their communities. The data was taken from a 2001 survey. The researchers specifically compared participants who showed evidence of psychological distress (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc.) with attendance at standard appointments for preventive care.
Compared to “non-distressed” seniors, it was found that 30% of the elderly subjects reporting emotional health problems were less likely to receive the flu shot, and 23% were less likely to go in for their annual checkup at the dentist. Moreover, women in this age group with psychological distress were 27% less likely to have an all- important breast exam.
Although unpleasant, these types of preventive care are absolutely necessary. With the prevalence of the flu in our communities, the elderly are strongly encouraged to receive the flu shot, as they are more susceptible to serious complications, such as pneumonia.
Regular dental care is equally as vital, because gum disease, while painful in and of itself, is actually believed to be connected to heart disease as well. I don’t think I need to stress the importance of having a yearly breast exam, as you all know how dangerous breast cancer can be.
According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, 15 out of 100 American adults over the age of 65 suffer from depression. Depression is a serious disease — going far beyond just feeling sad because of a particular event in one’s life. It frequently interferes with a person’s ability to perform the regular activities associated with daily life and it carries with it many physical and emotional symptoms.
Often, depression is present in seniors who reside in hospitals and nursing homes or in those who are afflicted with another illness or disease.
Obviously, this serious condition interferes with a person’s desire or ability to attend to some crucial medical appointments.
What can we do about this? To start, doctors need to make sure they are screening their elderly patients for any emotional health problems on a regular basis. If you feel you fall into this category, you must seek medical attention, however difficult or unpleasant it may seem. Looking out for your psychological and emotional well-being can lead to better overall health and a longer, happier life.