The Seniors Health Network each month explores a different health-care topic with local professionals. This month, Dr. Grace Park shares ways seniors can “AVOID” the pitfalls that contribute to physical decline and frailty.
My mom lives in White Rock. She is 86 and just starting to lose her mobility. I wouldn’t exactly call her frail, but she seems to be deteriorating. Are there any special programs available that might decrease her decline?
We all hope to age well and avoid frailty. The good news is that research on frailty is showing that it can be prevented or at least delayed so that we can enjoy a more productive life in our senior years. Therefore, it is critically important that we intervene and change our lifestyles to ensure we enact the elements that are now recommended by the Canadian Frailty Network to avoid frailty. These are: “AVOID.
A – Activity, V – vaccination, O- optimize medications, I-Interact, D- Diet.
Our community has a lot to offer to help seniors avoid frailty and remain independent for as long as possible. Health starts with having a primary care provider, a GP or a Nurse Practitioner who can attend to your health needs. They can also provide periodic health assessments and recommend a wellness oriented care plan and vaccinations as required. He or she can optimize your medications with regular review to ensure you are still benefiting from them, and reduce the number of medications if possible.
Community recreation centres offer exercise classes for all levels of fitness and even for those with mobility problems, like Get Up and Go classes.
Interaction with people to avoid social isolation is a very important piece of the AVOID strategy. Social isolation has been shown to increase chance of premature death, depression, dementia, number of falls, increase care-giver burden and generally reduce quality of life. Unfortunately, many socially isolated seniors are reluctant to step out and lack the confidence to interact in social settings.
White Rock-South Surrey now has a Seniors Community Connector Program that GP/NPs can refer their patients to through Social Prescribing. If there is a need to improve a senior’s activity/exercise level, nutrition and food security as well as social interactions, the GP/NP can refer their patient to the Seniors Community Connector. The Senior Community Connector will speak with the senior (and family caregiver) to address all aspects of their social health. She is aware of all the senior services in the community and make appropriate recommendations. If there is need for more support to increase motivation and goal setting to overcome barriers, a peer volunteer coach can be connected. This program is available through Seniors Come Share.
A community-based system for health involves the GP and hospital services, but also parks-and-rec centres, education partners, transportation, job and volunteer opportunities, mental health and substance use support, culturally appropriate programs for all ages and community services
The senior community connector will send a follow up report to the GP/NP so the senior will continue to receive the support and benefit of the health and social services connection.
The Senior Community Connector becomes an extension of your primary health care team to ensure a more holistic support network for the senior in the community.
Dr. Grace Park is a family physician who is currently the Medical Director for Home Health with the Fraser Health Authority.