Health Care Service Providers Focus on Seniors

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Medical professionals and healthcare companies are responding to the growing older adult population with specialized and enhanced health care services for seniors. As life expectancies increase, health care service providers are striving to improve the quality of life for seniors by focusing on the needs of individuals in their 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond.

Senior Health Watch focuses on what health care service providers are concentrating on-health issues that are specifically important to seniors and their families. Gerontology programs are among the most technologically advanced programs in area hospitals. From Diabetes to Alzheimer’s and from Cardiology to Orthopaedics, the health problems that directly affect a large majority of the senior population are now, more than ever, on the forefront of the medical community’s mind.

Preparing for the upcoming senior boom, while caring for the nation’s elderly, has already proven to be an arduous task. However, health care service providers have answered this challenges by funneling more financial, technical, and manpower resources toward delivering high quality treatment options for seniors.

Featured Health Issue: Orthopaedics
Orthopaedics focuses on the care and treatment of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system includes the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and skin. Physicians specializing in this area of medicine are called orthopaedic surgeons or orthopaedists. Orthopaedists treat diseases and conditions ranging from fractures and dislocations to arthritis and osteoporosis. Many of their areas of specialization are especially important to the continued health and mobility of seniors.

Treatment options for orthopaedic problems include medical treatments, rehabilitation, and surgery. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), “Typically, as much as 50 percent of the orthopaedist’s practice is devoted to non-surgical or medical management of injuries or disease and 50 percent to surgical management.”

Surgical procedures can be used to correct problems with bones, joints, muscles, and tendons and restore lost function. One of the most common surgical procedures performed by Orthopaedic surgeons is total joint replacement, during which an injured or diseased joint is replaced with a prosthetic device. The most common joint replacement surgeries are hip replacement and knee replacement. “In 2002, more than 557,000 hip or knee replacement surgeries were performed,” notes AAOS’ website.

Hip replacement surgery is most often performed as a result of a current hip fracture, joint pain from a previous injury, or arthritis. The overall goal of hip replacement surgery is to allow patients to perform most of the activities they did prior to surgery without pain. Before deciding to undergo hip replacement surgery, patients should first attempt to treat their condition with the use of a cane or other walking aid, medication, and physical therapy. Patients should also consult with their Orthopaedist regarding other joint rehabilitation options.

Knee replacement surgery can be helpful for individuals who are suffering from stiff, painful knees that prevent them from performing normal daily activities without pain. Knee pain can be a result of arthritis, a previous injury, joint overuse, or a number of other causes. Like candidates for other joint replacement surgery, Knee replacement patients should exhaust all other treatment options-including the use of walking supports, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy-before seeking surgery. A qualified orthopaedic surgeon can help patients make a final determination as to whether or not surgery is right for them.

Following joint replacement, patients will spend several days recovering in the hospital and will then be sent home or to a rehabilitation facility to continue the initial healing process. After the initial healing period, patients will generally work with a Physical Therapist for outpatient therapy for another one to two months. With the help of Orthopaedists, Physical Therapists can put together a comprehensive exercise routine that will help patients recover from surgery and regain the ability to perform daily activities without pain.

Aging Joints
While muscle and joint problems are often caused by arthritis or injuries, exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent problems or relieve pain once it exists. Many patients that experience muscle or joint pain erroneously assume that increased movement will increase their pain. Normal soreness after exercising will likely occur, but with continued activity, many patients actually experience a reduction in pain.

The loss of muscle and bone mass is a normal part of the aging process and cannot be prevented. However, exercising and regulating diet can help to slow the process, thereby reducing the risk of age-related joint and muscle injuries. Stretching, walking, swimming, or engaging in another moderate physical activity for just 30 minutes a day will help to keep muscles and bones strong and healthy.

As the field of Orthopaedics continues to grow, patients are benefiting from an increasingly wide range of options to treat muscle and joint problems. Senior patients in particular have seen a dramatic increase in the treatment options available to remedy painful muscle and joint problems resulting from old injuries, recent falls, or arthritis and other chronic conditions. By making more pro-active personal care decisions and seeking proper treatment from medical professionals, seniors can now experience increased mobility and decreased muscle and joint pain and weakness for generations to come.

Article adapted from information available on the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ website. Visit www.aaos.org for more information.

Get Out and Get Moving

Did you know that . . .

Lack of exercise and poor diet are the second largest cause of death in the U.S.

Physical activity helps to delay, or even prevent, diseases like cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

Seniors can improve their muscle mass, balance, and strength by exercising.

Regular exercise can help seniors retain their mobility and avoid disabilities.

Exercise can improve some diseases and disabilities in older people.

Exercise can help relieve depression.

Adapted From: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/agepages/exercise.htm.

BONE HEALTH: Spotlight on Arthritis

Arthritis . . .

Can cause pain and loss of movement in joints in any part of the body

Is one of the most common diseases in the U.S.

Affects half of all adults over the age of 65

Causes joint pain and lessened mobility

Can lead to serious disabilities

Is most effectively treated by rest and exercise

Improves when sufferers are taught how to properly use their joints

Adapted From: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/agepages/arthritis.htm

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