Truth in Healthcare, Part Four: Aging Isn’t An Illness

July 17, 2019 by Katie Davis

Aging is not an illness

If you’ve made it to the end of this three-part series, well, bravo. I can imagine the only thing more painful then writing this series would be reading it. But for those of you who are still reading and listening… thank you… a million times thank you.

Also, you’re in luck… because instead of ending the series with one of my notoriously long-winded posts that WordPress slaps with a poor readability score, my computer crashed after I spent hours writing the first (very long) version. I considered that setback Life’s way of saying .. “that post needed a hard edit.”

So, here’s the condensed version for your reading pleasure. Although, no one would describe it as condensed… sorry. In any case, off we go.

Aging isn’t an Illness

Most of what we’re oriented to believe about the aging process is negative and disease-focused. Therefore, most of today’s senior care options are oriented around addressing the ‘disease’ of aging.

Don’t believe me? Read this fantastic perspective from Dr. Nortin Hadler in the Washington Post.

In the interview, Dr. Hadler says the following:

“You can be healthy well beyond 60, but you’ll be different than you were when you were 20. You’ll have different posture, wrinkles and a lot of other changes that are less obvious but age appropriate. We have to be very, very careful about calling any difference from when we were younger an illness or a disease. And we have to be even more careful about telling people that we have things we can do to “fix” these differences, but this happens all the time. That’s the medicalization of aging.”

In senior care, I believe we have a responsibility to be extra careful about trying to ‘fix’ what we perceive to be wrong with older adults. As professionals, this becomes most obvious when we find ourselves working with families where adult children caregivers or other care professionals are trying to force an older adult into a situation they don’t want.

“Mom sits at home all day,” they say. “She doesn’t eat good food or really do anything. We worry about her getting lonely. Here, she could go to the gym, participate in all these activities and if she falls, there’s someone to take care of her.”

And in almost every case, the points they make are well-intended. But then Mom says..

“I love my home. Your father and I lived there for 40 years. I raised my children there. I watch my birds in the backyard in the mornings and then I like to knit and read quietly. I’ve never been a social butterfly. I’m involved in my church, someone visits me weekly. Yes, I know I’m not as steady on my feet anymore, but when you were a child, you weren’t either.  I didn’t place you in bubble wrap and I don’t want that to happen to me now.”

When we think of aging as a disease, we try to assume control and reduce our fear of it by throwing pretty, packaged solutions at the problem. In doing so, we miss the entire point. An effective plan for optimal aging isn’t just about planning for worst-case scenarios nor is it about giving up our independence and control to avoid risk.

Instead, I believe after talking to and caring for many older adults, that effective aging is about a mindset that recognizes that the time we have left is limited and  valuable. And that living it on someone else’s terms or out of a desire to ‘fix’ something that is inherently unfixable is a sacrifice that we can’t afford to make.

At CarePods, our job isn’t to help people live for as long as possible. Our job is to help them live a life they feel is worth living for as long as possible. That’s what we all ultimately want and deserve, right?

Thank you again for reading the blog and for your interest in CarePods. I’m so grateful for your time and hope that in some small way, our efforts can improve the aging experience for you or someone you love.