This article was previously published on the Huffington Post.
“All diseases run into one, old age.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Finding oneself in the hospital can be trying at any age. But for the elderly such an experience comes with a host of separate issues, both mental and physical, that need to be addressed in conjunction with prompt and professional care for their ailment. As our nation’s baby boomers begin to retire and medical advances increase life span, the average patient age continues to rise, a trend that appears to have no end in sight. In our efforts to assist an aging friend, relative or loved one, it is important to keep in mind that patience and perspective rule the day.
In this fast-paced modern age, when a young or middle-aged person gets sidelined through illness or accident, his or her thoughts often refer to the quotidian: school or work responsibilities, upcoming social events and family obligations. While the elderly entertain these thoughts as well, in many instances their priorities and focus will differ considerably. What may seem trivial to a 25-year-old may be of great importance to a patient of 85, be it paying the phone bill, watering the plants or feeding the cat. As a result, one of the most helpful things we can do when visiting sick, elderly patients is to ask them what they feel needs to be done. Through the simple act of listening, the caregiver or friend offers the understanding that the patient is not alone, and the needs of their life outside the hospital are being met. This frees them to focus their attention on the illness at hand and offsets the feelings of loneliness and helplessness that come with any hospital stay. … Read more →