Talking with Your Doctor
Discussing Sensitive Topics
It is important for you to discuss sensitive topics with your doctor because they can affect your health. Sensitive health issues, like sexual problems or memory loss, concern many older people, but they are not just normal parts of aging. You may find some of these topics embarrassing, but remember, your doctor is used to talking about personal matters.
Anyone at any age can have a drinking problem. As the body ages, alcohol can have a greater effect. Someone whose drinking habits have not changed may find over time that he or she has a problem. Also, people should not drink when taking certain medications.
Tell your doctor if
- alcohol is affecting you differently
- you are drinking more than usual
- you feel like you want to drink alcohol earlier and earlier in the day
- it is hard to stop after one or two drink
- you use alcohol to help cope with sadness.
Falling or Fear of Falling
A fall can cause injury and short- or long-term loss of independence. It is normal to fear falling, but you do not want to let your fear affect your daily activities. You can talk to your doctor about things you can do to lessen your chances of falling, such as exercises to improve balance and strength.
Driving is an important part of everyday life for many people. Deciding to stop driving can be hard. Tell your doctor if you or people close to you are worried about your driving and why. Your doctor can see if there are health problems that may be affecting your driving. Vision and memory tests are important. Your doctor may also know of a driver's education refresher class for older drivers.
Grief, Mourning, and Depression
As people grow older, they may lose friends and family to death or illness. Also, sometimes older adults have to move away from home or cannot do a favorite activity anymore. Talking to your doctor about these types of events can help him or her suggest things to help you cope with the losses.
It is normal to feel sad and mourn when you have a loss. However, tell your doctor if you feel sad all the time or for more than a few weeks. Also, tell your doctor if you have less energy, are not hungry, have trouble sleeping, or have little interest in life. These could be signs of depression, a health problem that your doctor can help you with.
Most doctors understand that sexuality remains important in later life. If you are not happy with your sex life, do not just assume it is due to your age. Talk to your doctor about this issue. You can also ask your doctor about how a health problem, medication, or surgery may change your sexual function.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Practicing safe sex is important at any age. The death of a spouse, divorce, or separation can lead some older people to date again and possibly have sex with a new partner. Your doctor can discuss with you how safe sex can reduce your risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
Older people sometimes have problems making it to the bathroom. Problems controlling your bladder or bowel are called incontinence and it can often be treated. Your doctor may suggest exercises, ways to change your bathroom habits, medications, or surgery to help with this problem.
Many older adults worry about not being able to think and remember as well as they did when they were younger. For most older adults, these abilities do not change too much with age. Let your doctor know if you have been confused or have problems remembering recent events. Be specific about the changes you have noticed. This will help your doctor find the cause for these problems.
Problems With Family
Even strong and loving families can have problems because of stress caused by illness. It can be painful to talk about family problems, but if your doctor knows about them, he or she may be able to help you and your family.
Talk to your doctor if you think you are being mistreated or neglected by a family member or caregiver. Abuse can be physical, verbal, mental, or even financial. Your doctor can help you get help if you are being mistreated.
Feeling Unhappy With Your Doctor
Sometimes people become unhappy with their doctor. You may feel upset by something your doctor or the doctor's staff has said or done. Do not avoid your doctor. Be honest with him or her about your feelings so that you both can work out the problem.