Normal Aging or Something More?
January 12, 2016 — As you get older, some changes are to be expected, but others should raise a red flag. Do you know the difference?
Lance Wehrle, DO, an internal medicine specialist at Bingham Memorial Hospital addresses concerns about joint pain, hearing loss, and memory loss.
Normal: It’s common to have a little stiffness or soreness in the morning that either fades as the day goes on or is easily treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen.
Not: The pain shouldn’t affect your ability to function and prevent you from everyday activities like walking and cleaning the house.
Solve it: “Anytime joint pain starts to interfere with your life, you should have it evaluated by a doctor,” says Dr. Wehrle. Your physician can help determine the best approach to manage the pain—whether it’s physical therapy, exercise, medication, or surgery. “The plus-side is that there is a multitude of treatment options for joint pain these days, and surgery is easier and less invasive than ever before,” Dr. Wehrle says.
Normal: “Virtually everyone has problems with high-pitched hearing,” says Dr. Wehrle. In fact, about a third of adults 65 or older—and half of those older than 85—experience some degree of hearing loss.
Not: When hearing impairment leads to social withdrawal, it’s time to see an audiologist. “It really can be more than an inconvenience. It can lead to depression, isolation, and loss of self-esteem,” Dr. Wehrle says.
Solve it: “For some reason, there’s still such a stigma surrounding hearing aids that many people avoid wearing them,” Dr. Wehrle says. But think of them like glasses—there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Hearing aids can be pricey, though, and typically aren’t covered by insurance, so it may be worth it to explore other options first. “Personal pocket devices, which amplify sound close to you while reducing background noise, are good to try,” Dr. Wehrle says.
Normal: Mild forgetfulness, like mixing up your 13 grandkids’ names or struggling to find the right word for 11 across in a crossword puzzle, is just a part of getting older.
Not: More worrisome memory loss includes getting lost while driving in your own neighborhood or forgetting to pay your bills.
Solve it: “Memory loss is a tough one because it is usually spotted by a loved one,” Dr. Wehrle says. “If you notice signs of memory loss in your mom or dad, husband or wife, the best first step is to have them evaluated.” Also, as uncomfortable as it may be, you’ll need to start discussing legal matters, such as power of attorney.
Addressing Your Aging Concerns
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