Senior Days

Your doctor can help you maintain the best quality of life, even as you get older

Though it is different for everyone, there appears to be a time when people who once said to their doctor, “I think I have a health issue,” changed and started to say, “I feel like I’m falling apart.” It is something Andrew Mrugala, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Primary Care in Pooler, hears often from his elderly patients. And he understands why.

“Many people make it through most of their adult lives without having to take any medications, let alone several,” he says. “I tend to respond with an analogy I found helpful during my training: health in old age is like maintaining a classic car—if we stay proactive about taking care of a car’s various parts, we can get many years of continued enjoyment. Likewise, we should also respect physical limitations and be realistic with our expectations—you don’t often see someone trying to haul a trailer full of gravel with their show car.”

So while you may not be falling apart, your goals may change—and that’s okay, Dr. Mrugala says. Defining those goals is what he is here for.

“Every patient is unique, and older adults are no exception,” he says. “Every new problem requires a thoughtful evaluation. For most of our lives, we view our goals for health as something static—we want to fix whatever ails us and get back to our day-to-day routines. However, as patients get older, goals evolve and tend to become more nuanced—patients talk more about wanting to maximize the amount of time they can spend doing the things they enjoy and being with the people they care about.”

Dr. Mrugala sees older patients for a wide range of conditions, which are sometimes discovered by a loved one.

“It is very often a symptom first recognized by a family member that ends up bringing a patient to the office, whether it’s perceived difficulty with hearing to being a little more short of breath after a walk than before,” he says. “Concerns brought up by loved ones are valid and serve as a great reminder to trust the people who care about us!”

Dr. Mrugala has noticed that, without a loved one’s input, a large barrier that patients face is their ability to make their concerns known in the first place. He encourages seniors to go ahead and schedule their appointments and vocalize their concerns at a routine physical, even if that means saying you’re “falling apart.”

At least then you will have a starting point for you and your doctor. 

“The important thing is to remember that we have never had more tools at our disposal to improve the quality of patients’ lives both in large ways and small,” he says. “And by being attentive to keeping up with health maintenance and always referring back to a patient’s individual goals for their health, we can work together to maximize the number of good days we have.” 

Dr. Mrugala also shared some important information about hypertension, or high blood pressure, in our Winter 2021 issue of Smart Living.

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