It’s a new year! It’s a new decade in fact! Bright, shiny and brand new and just waiting to be filled with adventures, travel, time with loved ones, cozy evenings by the fire (fake or real it doesn’t matter!) or raucous nights of hilarity with friends while dining out at your local favourite eatery. Mostly, what 2020 should be about is embracing fabulous and ditching fear. What are we talking about? Well – we typically try to keep out blog posts light, informative, sometimes funny and always on topics that our members tell us are relevant to folks 50+. The reality of catering to a “mature” demographic however, is that sometimes we experience a few “ups and down” in life; a roller coaster ride that might leave us feeling a bit of trepidation about climbing back on. In honour of the new year and new decade – we want to remind Amintronians that life is for the living and it’s all about the ride so climb onboard, buckle up and enjoy the ride, it might race up and down but it always ends on level ground.
Recently two people of our acquaintance experienced some frightening health related events. Thankfully, both will eventually make a full recovery but the experience itself has taken a toll on both their physical and mental well-being. Whether it’s walking, driving a car, being alone, the challenges these two lovely ladies faced have left them feeling some fear. It’s natural of course – I think any of us would, at any age, after an incident that required hospitalization. Perhaps it’s worse however, as we age. Perhaps “bouncing back” takes a little more time? That’s why today we wanted to talk a little bit about embracing your fear, taking what we can from the experience and then, embracing the opportunity to get right back on that roller coaster, buckle up for safety’s sake but start enjoying the ride again.
Heading back up!
As we age, we know that it’s medically proven the “bounce back factor” can take a little longer. Wounds heal slower for example, because of thinning skin and a loss of muscle mass, which can start as early as around age thirty. This progresses as we age and naturally, will make recovery a longer process. A study done in 2016 by Rockefeller University put it plainly, “older bodies need longer to mend.” (1) Be patient with yourself and your abilities and resist the urge to push too hard too soon, potentially aggravating your medical condition instead of helping the healing process.
If you’ve had a car accident, for example, consider these tips from familydoctor.org:
- Talk to friends, relatives, or a counsellor. Go over the details of the accident. Talk about how you thought, felt, and acted both at the time of the accident and in the days after.
- Stay active. Exercise often. Take part in activities that don’t bother any injuries you sustained during the accident. Your family doctor can help you figure out how much you can do safely.
- Follow up with your family doctor. Your doctor can give you referrals to other health care providers if necessary. He or she can monitor your recovery and prescribe any medicine you may need. They can refer you to a mental health specialist or therapist to help you work through your feelings.
- Try to get back to daily activities and routines. Traffic accidents make some people limit what they do. It’s important to try to get back to your usual activities. Even if you’re uncomfortable or scared at first, it’s part of healing.
- Learn to be a defensive driver. Driving or riding in cars might be hard after the accident. You can lower your risk of future accidents or injuries by practicing defensive driving. Always drive carefully, wear your seat belt, and avoid distractions while you’re driving. These include eating, talking on the phone, or texting. Avoid driving when you’re tired. Never drive if you have had alcohol or taken drugs or medications that could affect your judgment.
On the other hand, if you have experienced some sort of a medical emergency, (for example if you’ve experienced a stroke or a heart attack) consider these factors:
- Reduce risks, or stroke may strike again. Survivors are at high risk of having another stroke. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, exercising, take medications as prescribed and visit your healthcare provider regularly.
- Many factors influence recovery: where in the brain the stroke occurred; how much of the brain was affected, the survivor’s motivation; caregiver support; the quantity and quality of rehabilitation; and the survivor’s health before the stroke.
- Gains can happen quickly or over time. The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year after their stroke.
- Some signs point to physical therapy. Consider assistance from a physical or occupational therapist if you (or your loved one) has: dizziness; imbalance that results in falls; difficulty walking or moving around daily; inability to walk six minutes without stopping to rest; inability to participate in or complete daily activities.
- Don’t ignore falls. Falls after stroke are common. If a fall is serious and results in severe pain, bruising or bleeding, take your loved one to the emergency room. If your loved one has minor falls more than two times within six months, see your physician or physical therapist for treatment.
- Measuring progress matters. How much acute rehabilitation therapy you or your loved one receives depends partly on the rate of improvement. Survivors in acute rehabilitation are expected to make measurable functional gains every week based on the Functional Independence Measure Score (FIMS). Functional improvements include daily, mobility and communication skills. The typical rehabilitation expectation is improving 1-2 FIMS points per day.
Having a PMA – Positive Mental Attitude!
As part of our research, and as you would expect, most sites talked repeatedly about the importance of having a positive mental attitude towards your recovery. Resolving to put your fear aside and to do whatever it takes to fully recover from an accident or injury is a positive approach to healing. But so is being gentle with yourself. If you’ve had a major motor vehicle accident, you don’t need to get in the car the very next day but you do need to get back in the car!
As well, sometimes the 50+ generation has somewhat of a “grin and bear it” attitude – a more stoic approach to injury or illness and the thought of talking to a therapist is just not in our vocabulary. Times are changing and if you’re embracing all the positives about aging in the 21st century, embrace this one too – that it’s ok to talk to someone about your thoughts and feelings, particularly if a quick, full and healthy recovery is what you are aiming for.
Rather than bemoaning an accident, celebrate that you survived. Don’t let that stroke slow you down – use it as a catalyst for change toward a healthier lifestyle. You’ve got bucket lists to work your way through and roller coasters to ride. Make the decision to climb onboard again, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
By Sheralyn Roman