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College 101: Aging Anxiety

Since I left for college, my parents have told me that my grandfather has started to develop some health issues. The good news is that he is able to stay in his home (which he insists upon) and doesn’t need to go to a nursing home. But my parents are contemplating buying some things for his home so that he can be safer and more comfortable. He’s started having mobility issues (I guess both with standing up and potentially falling), and he was diagnosed with sleep apnea. He also has arthritis and high blood pressure. I’m worried about him, especially being in a home without medical staff. Can he take care of himself at home?

One of the most difficult parts of getting older is watching the people we love get even older and develop age-related health problems. It sounds like your grandfather and your family are staying as on top of his health issues as possible, which is an important first step! It’s understandable that you feel worried or scared, but the good news is that there are ways he can stay in his home and still take care of himself or receive assistance from caregivers, including loved ones.

Luckily for your family, the market now has a number of options to make it easier for elderly people with health issues to stay in their own homes while remaining relatively safe. You mentioned that your grandfather is having mobility issues. One thing that may give your family peace of mind is looking at handicap tubs, also sometimes referred to as walk-in tubs. With this kind of tub, your grandfather can more easily enter and exit the tub for bathing, without having to worry about tripping, slipping, or standing for long periods of time. You hint that your grandfather strongly values his independence, and a simple solution like a walk-in tub is a great compromise between his dignity and your parents’ concerns about his mobility.

Your grandfather’s other health issues, like sleep apnea, arthritis, and high blood pressure can be monitored and treated to some degree. He should talk to his doctor about treatment options, including possible medications. His doctor may recommend a CPAP machine. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines use a face mask to ensure that an individual can breathe normally through the night. Although these machines look a little intimidating, they can give peace of mind to your family knowing that your grandfather doesn’t have pauses in his breathing during sleep, which can lead to much more serious health problems. His arthritis and high blood pressure may require medications or lifestyle changes, and these are all things that a skilled physician and caring family can help your grandfather navigate.

In short, your grandfather and your family will have to make some adjustments to his living situation and the ways in which he takes care of himself. But your concern shines through, and love, support, and staying in touch with him are also key parts of helping your grandfather and parents transition into this stage of his life.

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” -- Tia Walker

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