Keys to Good Health in the Golden Years
What inspired your passion for this field? What do love about what you get to do?
I had a very strong reaction to working in nursing homes when I was in medical school. It brought me back to when my grandmother was in a nursing home. I realized that anyone who reaches a ripe old age has had a long and interesting life. Being in a nursing home was only one small part of that life. Older adults are not always treated that way, and I thought it was important to help them.
What are some myths about aging and wellness that you would like to dispel?
Most older people age well, and they are independent for most of their lives. In 2013, about 3 % of adults > 65 years old, and 11% of adults > 85 years old were living in nursing homes. There is a huge variety in how people age, and that usually has to do with lifestyle choices throughout life.
How can children and caregivers better support their loved ones afflicted by aging related diseases?
It is hard and stressful to be a caregiver—no one would dispute that. Caregivers, who are often spouses as well, need to take care of themselves so that they can be there for their loved ones. Also, sometimes caregivers are so worried about their loved ones that they do not give them any control or independence. Safety concerns aside, every person needs a sense of control and purpose. I often counsel families on the delicate art of balancing safety with independence.
What technology advances have been made in your field that really excite you? For instance: are we making progress on the genetic front with things like CRISPR?
Ha! Well I don’t think that CRISPR is going to be ready for everyday use anytime soon. There have not been any great advances in the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Growing evidence suggests that lifestyle changes can prevent or improve cognitive problems, and I think that we will start to understand that even more in the future. I have become quite interested in Functional Medicine, which examines why people get diseases in the first place and works to identify the deep underlying causes of aging diseases. I am planning on going to a conference in December on this, so we shall see!
How will the graying of the baby boomer generation affect geriatric medicine?
Well, not a lot of people are going into geriatric, and the increase of older baby boomers over 65 is going to pose a national and likely world-wide problem. Likely, primary care doctors are going to have to take on most of the geriatric population. That is why I set up my practice as a consultative service, so I can help primary care doctors manage these patients.
What can patients do to help their doctors help them?
Patients should be honest with their doctors. If there is a treatment that is too confusing or costly or that causes side effects, I like to know about it, so that I can change it to suit the need of the patient. But I also want patients to prioritize their health and treat their bodies well. Eating right, exercising, and avoiding drugs and alcohol make such a huge difference!
Jodi Friedman, MD
Northern Dutchess Hospital
Center for Healthy Aging
6529 Springbrook Ave
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
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