Top 10 “Worries” of Older Americans – Part 3: False Confidence, When to Consider Giving Up Driving and our Desire to Remain Independent.
Aging Happy - Part 3, 3-part series
In this issue, you’ll find the final part of the 3-part series entitled Aging Happy: Top 10 “Worries” of Older Americans. Here we will address the topics of False Confidence, When to Consider Giving Up Driving and our Desire to Remain Independent.
I’m sure I told you that already! Sound familiar? You may have, though older adults are more likely to have what is referred to as “destination memory failures” – forgetting who they’ve shared or not shared information with, according to a study led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. “What we’ve found is that older adults tend to experience more destination amnesia than younger adults,” states lead investigator and cognitive scientist Dr. Nigel Gopie, who led the study with experts in memory and attention, Drs. Fergus Craik and Lynn Hasher. Ironically, after making these memory errors older adults may remain highly confident in their false beliefs. Do you more often experience forgetting a memory you wanted to share? Penn State psychologists suggest that the problem may actually be “misremembering”. In a study, the researchers found that as people age, they may be more likely to rely on a type of memory called “schematic memory” that helps them remember the gist of an event, but not necessarily the details. This inability to remember details, though, could lead to difficulty in distinguishing between a memory of something that really happened and something that a person thought happened but did not – a false memory. At every age the brain strives to “complete the story” and it is helpful to understand how information processing may be changing. The use of written lists, detailed calendar and other supports to organize information, rather than relying on memory alone is a solution at any age. Have a conversation with a trusted friend, family member and your health care provider if this is something you or a loved one is experiencing to optimize the opportunities for support
and minimize the unwanted effects of false memories or even false confidence.
Initiating a conversation about safe driving can be a challenging area of false confidence with an older driver, especially a parent. Information related to many facets of senior driving can be found at https://seniordriving.aaa.com. Preserving personal freedom and mobility, while ensuring safety on the road, is enhanced by attention to open and respectful communication; keeping the conversation between you and the driver rather than a family intervention; maintaining privacy and avoiding assumptions with a focus on safe driving and working together. This website includes a Driver Planning Agreement to use as a conversation guide and plan for addressing changes in driving abilities before they become a concern. If you notice that you are beginning to experience some natural age-related changes, there may be the opportunity to adjust your driving habits to keep driving safely.
Drivers 65 Plus features a 15-question self-rating driving assessment exercise designed to help examine driving performance and make better-informed decisions about when to get behind the wheel and when to seek other forms of transportation. DriveSharp (https://www.drivesharp.com) is a computer-based software with three interactive exercises clinically proven to help see more; improve the ability to monitor multiple moving objects like pedestrians, bicyclists other cars; and increase processing speed.
Professional assessments may also be indicated and include Clinical Driving Assessments which are conducted by Occupational Therapist Driving Rehabilitation Specialists (OT-DTRs). These are suitable for people with disabilities or individuals with one or more medical conditions that affect driving. Driving skills evaluators (DSEs) conduct evaluations to help identify any weaknesses in driving skills and determine if supplemental training can further reduce driving risk. Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you must decide how to react to other vehicles and drivers, traffic signs and signals, highway conditions and vehicle performance, often with the need to take quick action. Just like a routine medical checkup, it’s important to assess any changes in skills and be aware of everything you can do to be safe on the road.
It is likely no surprise that the majority, an estimated 90 percent according to recent surveys, would prefer to live independently and for as long as possible. Independence requires a level of physical and cognitive function that can be difficult to maintain especially if there is a disability. A recent National Institute on Aging (NAI) analysis notes that 40 percent of Americans over 65 fall into this category.
Healthy brain function is a vital factor in preserving independence. Look to your nutrition to help your brain work at maximum efficiency. It is generally recommended to include as many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats as possible while minimizing saturated fats, sugar-sweetened processed foods, and beverages. It can be confusing with all the nutritional plans available, though the Mediterranean style eating plan is associated with a lower incidence of cognitive decline. Staying engaged mentally and socially is also important.
Take action to avoid health problems that will threaten your ability to live on your own. Get help to stop smoking if needed, strive to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. Physical activity, 30 minutes each day is generally recommended. Not excited about walking outdoors? Consider walking indoors at the local mall. Resistance exercises for 15 minutes sessions 2 – 3 times per week will also help preserve physical functioning. Using simple dumbbells and/or resistance bands at home or in a group, for example at a Silver Sneakers Program at the YMCA is a great option. As with any new activity check with your health care practitioner for any contraindications.
Speak with your healthcare practitioner about when to be screened for osteoporosis – a condition that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. Share also if you are feeling unsteady on your feet. People age 55 and older who are unsteady have more than twice the risk of an osteoporosis-related fracture compare to those with better balance, according to a Swedish study. Poor balance is one of the leading reasons for falls according to Dr. Marvin Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports chief medical adviser. He shares two quick self-tests to gauge your balance: Heel-to-toe walking (taking steps with one foot directly in front of another) and standing on one leg for at least 30 seconds. Check out your local YMCA for a “Moving for Better Balance” program and/or talk to your primary care provider for a prescription for physical therapy to help strengthen your muscles and improve your balance.
If you have a chronic medical condition it is important to attend all your scheduled appointments. Routine screenings are an important strategy to help protect independence for everyone at any age or condition. In addition to your yearly wellness visit have your vision and hearing checked at least once every two years or every time you notice a change. When left untreated these impairments will increase the challenges of daily living.
The opportunity to stay engaged with family and friends, have mobility and vitality while enjoying optimal independence may feel like an elusive goal though we have begun to unpack several of the key factors that will support this goal. The bottom line is that it will be important to acknowledge when you want and/or need help. A limitation or disability may not be an inability. Having an open mind and being willing to accept help will go far to make your personal vision of independence a reality.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to Aging Tree or any of their approved Business Partners by calling 1-866-320-8803.
Cheree M. Albert MSN, CRNP, CPNP is the owner of Integrity Health Source LLC. You can contact Cheree by phone: 407-902-8945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org