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Lorena Smalley

Kirsten Veugelers, Founder/Owner of Navigate Your Health is a member of the Westend Seniors Activity Centre’s,  Friends of WSAC business program.  In March 2018, she had a Toonie Talk presentation here at our centre on how to get the most of our doctor’s appointments.  Since then, she has consistently provided valuable information through her website blog to seniors navigating the health care system.  This month’s blog deals with what we can do when our doctors tell us  “Well, this is common in older people.” and gives us 3 tips on how we can try opening the dialogue again

Guest Blog – Have you been diagnosed as “old”
By Kirsten Veugelers

The more conversations I have, the more aging individuals tell me that they are diagnosed as “old”. Now, doctors don’t say it like that. Rather, when the individual talks to their doctor about symptoms that concern them, the doctor may say something like “Well, this is common in older people.”

The problem is when that statement is the end of the conversation, because, understandably, the patient feels dismissed as being too old to treat.  Before I explain what patients can do to move beyond a diagnosis that “you’re old,” I have to explain some of the facts that I think doctors are weighing in that statement.

1.     We have a higher risk of illness as we age.

The longer we live, the more we suffer damage to our tissues and cells, and that can lead to disease. For this reason, illness and chronic conditions are more common in those who have achieved greater age.

If my doctor ended the conversation with “these symptoms are common in older people, I would think that, because of my age, my doctor thinks my concerns aren’t worth their time, and perhaps that I am not worth their time


2.     There are higher treatment risks as we age.

If a person has to go through surgery, anesthesia is more dangerous in older individuals; also recovery is often longer and more difficult than in middle-aged adults, for example. If instead a person is prescribed medication, there will be medication side-effects; importantly, since many older patients take multiple medications, there is increased risk of drug interactions. Sometimes there isn’t much point in treating, because there probably won’t be much benefit compared to the added risks and side-effects.

As much as the doctor speaks the truth when they say a condition is “common in older people”, and as much as the doctor is carefully evaluating the options, I think it is inappropriate for the doctor to end the conversation with that statement. If I were the patient that didn’t have the satisfaction of understanding the relative danger of my symptoms, and if I didn’t have the chance to discuss treatment options, I would start making my own assumptions: I would think that because of my age, my doctor thinks my concerns aren’t worth their time, and perhaps that I am not worth their time.

If you are diagnosed as “old”, it’s time to try opening the dialogue again.

CLICK HERE to see some of the questions that I think will help the patient to get to the heart of the issue and to feel respected:

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