Getting older may be unsettling to some, what with greying hair, wrinkles and forgetting where you parked the car! But seriously, ageing can bring on a variety of health issues.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that globally, the population is ageing rapidly and predicts that between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of people over 60 years will nearly double, from 12% to 22%.
Many seniors maintain good health and are fully able to function both physically and mentally well into their later years and they make important contributions to society as family members, volunteers and as active participants in the workforce. However, the biological effects of ageing will naturally lead to more physical and mental health problems among the older population than in younger age groups. They risk developing mental disorders, neurological disorders or substance use problems as well as other health conditions such as diabetes, hearing loss, and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, as people age, they are more likely to experience several conditions at the same time.
WHO figures show over 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. The most common mental and neurological disorders in this age group are dementia and depression, which affect approximately 5% and 7% of the world’s older population, respectively. Anxiety disorders affect 3.8% of the older population, substance use problems affect almost 1% and around a quarter of deaths from self-harm are among people aged 60 or above.
Risk factors for mental health problems among older adults
Older people may experience life stressors common to all people, but also stressors that are more common in later life, like a significant ongoing loss in capacities and a decline in functional ability. For example, older adults may experience reduced mobility, chronic pain, frailty or other health problems, for which they require some form of long-term care. In addition, older people are more likely to experience events such as bereavement, or a drop in socioeconomic status with retirement. All of these stressors can result in isolation, loneliness or psychological distress in older people, for which they may require long-term care.
Mental health has an impact on physical health and vice versa. For example, older adults with physical health conditions such as heart disease have higher rates of depression than those who are healthy. Additionally, untreated depression in an older person with heart disease can negatively affect its outcome.
Older adults are also vulnerable to elder abuse – including physical, verbal, psychological, financial and sexual abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious losses of dignity and respect. Current evidence suggests that 1 in 6 older people experience elder abuse. Elder abuse can lead not only to physical injuries, but also to serious, sometimes long-lasting psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety.
Cognitive health is focused on a person’s ability to think, learn and remember. Independence in later life is as much determined by cognitive ability as by physical ability. Among older adults a broad spectrum of cognitive capability exists with dementia at one extreme and normal cognitive function at the other. Adequate cognitive functioning is required
to perform simple activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing and more complex tasks such as managing money, paying bills and taking medications.
The most common cognitive health issue facing the elderly is dementia, the loss of those cognitive functions. Approximately 47.5 million people worldwide have dementia—a number that is predicted to nearly triple in size by 2050. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease with as many as five million people over the age of 65 suffering from the disease in the United States alone. According to the National Institute on Aging, other chronic health conditions and diseases increase the risk of developing dementia, such as substance abuse, diabetes, hypertension, depression, HIV and smoking. While there are no cures for dementia, physicians can prescribe a treatment plan and medications to manage the disease.
Mental & Emotional Health
Depression is believed to occur in 7% of the elderly population, but unfortunately, it is often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Older adults account for over 18 percent of suicides deaths in the United States. Because depression can be a side effect of chronic health conditions, managing those conditions help.
People in the following categories generally showed a higher rate of depression & anxiety:
A strong association has been found between loss of vision and depression, with less consistent or weaker relationships between hearing loss and depression
Taking five or more drugs daily, including prescribed, over-the-counter, and complementary medicines
The WHO guidelines urge health providers and societies to be prepared to meet the specific needs of older populations with training, prevention & management of age-associated chronic diseases, designing suitable policies on long-term & palliative care and developing age-friendly services & settings.
Additionally, promoting a lifestyle of healthy living such as betterment of living conditions, programs to prevent & deal with elder abuse and social support from family, friends and support groups in the community.
Every 65 seconds a senior is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease— that means more than 5 million Americans over the age of 65 live with this devastating disease. These seniors, and their families, are managing care for a chronic condition that can be moderate or severe, and progresses over time. That’s why there is such a high emotional cost with Alzheimer’s — and a high financial cost, too. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that for all people diagnosed in the U.S., the disease costs an estimated $277 billion a year. More than $60 billion of that comes directly out of the pockets of patients.
Many individuals pay an annual average of $56,800 for the treatment and care associated with Alzheimer’s. Medicare or private insurance covers about 40 percent of those costs, which leaves people struggling to cover the remaining 60 percent. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, things might seem frightening or hopeless, wondering how you’ll deal with the cost of care. It’s important you talk to your family, insurance plan and healthcare provider, but, in the meantime, here are a few ideas about ways you can cover that 60 percent without sacrificing the quality of your care.
Medicare Advantage Plans: If you are relying solely on traditional Medicare to help with Alzheimer’s costs, you might be footing the bill for a lot of services. For instance, there are gaps in coverage when it comes to prescription drugs, in-home care and rehabilitative services. Be clear on what your plan does and does not cover so you can look into supplemental plans that offer more assistance.
Tap into Your Equity: After a lifetime of living and working, you have assets you can dip into to help cover the cost of unexpected expenses that can pop up with Alzheimer’s care. For example, you can sell a life insurance policy, cash out a 401k or take out a reverse mortgage on your home. We’ve all heard horror stories associated with reverse mortgages, which is why it’s critical you do thorough research to find trustworthy and reputable reverse mortgage lenders that can assist you with the process.
End-of-Life Insurance Options: It’s not uncommon for bills and debt to pile up while managing Alzheimer’s care; something you don’t want to leave behind for your family to deal with. You can purchase additional insurance to help protect their financial future. For instance, burial insurance can not only cover the cost of funeral arrangements, but many options even cover other outstanding debt.
Government Assistance: In most cases, Alzheimer’s disease qualifies as a disability, which means you may qualify for government assistance programs like Supplemental Security Income or, for those under 65, Social Security Disability Income. Many states also offer caregiver support programs to help offset the costs of hiring in-home help.
Clinical Trials: Participating in a clinical trial is a personal decision that not everyone is ready to make. Since Alzheimer’s is a degenerative cognitive disorder, a person in a more severe version of the disease may not be ethically able to clearly make a decision. However, for those that can, and do, clinical trials can provide people with low or no cost access to leading healthcare facilities. Plus you’ll be contributing to the future of Alzheimer’s care. There are a lot of risks and side effects to consider, so be sure to weigh your options.
Right now, you might be feeling overwhelmed and alone. Navigating the complex world of planning and paying for Alzheimer’s care can be hard, but it is not impossible. Whether trying to find coverage for yourself or a family member, there are options out there that can make good care much more accessible.
For homeowners in the US, Andy Kearns (LendEDU) has sent me the following link with an outline the best personal loan options for home improvements, plus information on each lender such as their rates, loan amounts, and eligibility requirements.
Most homeowners have to-do lists full of home improvement projects which can get quite expensive. For this reason, they wanted to create an article educating them on the costs involved, ways to finance the project, and when it’s a good idea to work on home improvements.
This really gels with me because I, too am a good starter of new things but not a very good finisher and can sometimes get stuck early in Act II, which is pretty pathetic when you think about it. The only positive I can console myself with is that I find new ideas that have huge potential easily & often, I just need to learn how to pick one, set a goal for that one and stick with it till I reach that goal. Perhaps then that “thing” can become part-time or secondary while I explore a new shiny object. Rinse & repeat, as they say.
And even though Shaunta is a writer and her shiny new things were probably new subjects to write about, her strategies apply equally to anybody whose shining new things could be jobs or hobbies, sports or self-development courses, anything at all that they like to do or learn about. For me it’s usually some new software for graphics & animation or some new plan for making money.
The Cost of Shiny New Things/Objects Syndrome
Chasing shiny new things can be expensive for three reasons. Firstly, because if you only just start out all the time and never finish, you never get to the stage of getting any return on your investment, only the expenses.
The second cost is time and I believe it is an even higher cost than wasting money by not finishing things. You can always get more money somehow, but no-one can buy time. 24 hours a day for however long we live is what we all get equally and it’s all we can ever have. Lost time cannot ever be replaced & that makes time the most precious resource any of us have in life.
The third cost is lack of self-worth. You look on yourself as a failure and let’s be honest, you are a failure with regard to not reaching your goals, but it tends to take over your thoughts about yourself and you can start to think of yourself as a failure overall, just like a boy whose autocratic father, on receiving his son’s report card with 3 A’s & 2 B’s but one D in the father’s field of expertise, then calling his son a dunce and a failure.
Having reached my 70’s, I look back and can say that I’ve had a very interesting life with highlights like offshore sailing, flying a light plane for several years, jumping out of one at 10,000 feet, with a parachute of course since I’m alive and writing this!
But what I haven’t got is financial security in my senior years for various reasons, some not under my direct control, but nevertheless, the decisions I’ve made in the past have created the situation I’m now in.
Looking back, it’s easy to see where I didn’t spend money wisely, didn’t finish some of the training paid for and started but not finished; wasted time learning things that would have more efficiently been outsourced to someone already experienced in that field (but it was interesting learning these new things!).
Being brutally honest with myself, I lacked self-discipline for many of my years and still do to a lesser extent. The strategies I use now are a lot like those in Shaunta’s article and I list them here as it may be a useful guide to others in their quest to defeat the “Shiny”syndrome.
1. Expectations?—?set some for each day. Whatever your current project is, make a commitment to move forward in some measurable way. I like to write down a list either at night or first thing in the morning of what I want to achieve each day. My daily commitments go on that list as well as meetings & reminders so I don’t forget them.
2. Start each day with a positive mindset and when I say start, I mean before you get out of bed make a conscious decision to have a good day. Perhaps you don’t believe it, but your attitude to everything that happens to you is your choice. Things that happen are often not your choice, but how you think about them is. Waking up and saying to yourself “It’s Monday. I hate my work” is not going to result in the happiest or most productive day.
Shaunta says not to let your inner critic take over. For me this means that if I start feeling like I’m a failure, I take my mind on a brief journey remembering my successes and things I’m good at. We’re all good at something, so find yours. They don’t need to be huge, even something simple like being friendly and making people smile can have a more positive effect than you’ll ever know.
3. Be accountable to someone.
You’ll probably hate this idea; I always resisted and have only recently agreed to do this with someone I know well, but I believe it will help me to stop getting side-tracked by some of my interests. We can still have interests, so long as we keep doing our current project for the committed time each day.
4. Write down the Shiny New Things that come to you.
Even though you’re not going to follow them immediately, keep a record of your ideas because you might need them later, or some of them anyway. Knowing you have them stored safely for the future lets you free your mind to focus on your current project.
I’m not saying I’ve totally overcome my desire to keep trying new things straight away, because I haven’t, but I’m better at focusing on the task at hand now and since time is running out, it’s really now or never for me.