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Elders and medical science seem generations apart

by Isabel Fawcett

Some elders are less inclined to visit doctors as they advance in age. Theirs was a generation where visiting the doctor was only something one did if seriously ill. Where such elder worldviews may exist, no amount of wishful thinking, medical progress, or caregiver cajoling is likely to change our elders' attitudes.

My mother adores her doctors. Once she makes it in to see her doctors, Mom's face lights up at seeing their familiar, smiling faces. Most of her doctors have provided decades of skilled medical care to my mother.

As much as Mom adores and appreciates her doctors, it is a fact that Mom believes in God more than she believes in any doctor anywhere, anytime. That's just the way it is for Mom and some of her septuagenarian and octogenarian contemporaries.

There's "God, the Great Physician." There's also "Dr. Jesus." Both names are highly invoked by my mother when she wishes to firmly remind me that she is not about to run to a doctor for "every little thing." Even though I am an unapologetic believer in God as well, I do recognize an eldercare smoke screen when I see one. In Mom's case, her belief is sincere. The smoke screen lies in her delaying tactic, not her sincere belief in God.

I recognize and respect individuals' sincerely held beliefs. Yet, it's a real catch-22 for caregivers when Old World religious beliefs occasionally run interference with medical science. I would not be surprised if this socio-cultural issue poses equal challenge to doctors as well as caregivers.

Still, this God-versus-medical-science issue is just the way it is for my mother and some other elders who delay, ponder or defer seeking medical treatment for as long as possible, more so when they are not under the watchful eyes of caregiver police like me.

Mom's sentiment has never been a reflection on the quality of medical care she has received over the years. Her medical care has been the best, as she also readily admits and would agree.

Generations Apart

Some of my contemporaries and I have dubbed our elders and their peers, "The Greatest Generation That Ever Lived." When I think of Mom and her generation, fortitude and stoic traits come to mind, including in face of chronic illnesses and advancing age.

Mom laughs when I tell her that she is younger than I am. From a physical and health endurance standpoint, sometimes I wonder. Does Mom's generation of octogenarians ever feel physically tired like the rest of us younger mere mortals? Come to think of it, they may be the Energizer Bunny Generation? Boomers, on the other hand, are the Sandwich Generation. Yep, we are generations apart.

Boomers and younger generations came of age along with numerous miraculous advances in medical science.

We have listened to, seen and sometimes read Drs. Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Oz, Sanjay Gupta, and other medical celebrities. We are also familiar with the popularity of television and radio personalities like Dr. Laura (Schlesinger), Dr. Ruth, and, Dr. Phil (McGraw.) Some Boomers, Generation X and Y'ers, are not afraid of doctors or medical science. We know where they are, if or when we may need to go to the doctor.

Bridging the Generational Gap in Eldercare

My guess is that some caregivers, doctors, and many family members understand and respect Old World elder views and gingerly reconcile some elders' beliefs with the need for lifetime medical supervision of chronic diseases.

This caregiver and medical challenge reminds me of a time when some in the Old World were adamant that the earth was flat. For some elders and their caregivers, occasionally the world must be as flat as Christopher Columbus and his former contemporaries thought many centuries ago.

Lucky for us, all doctors have long since known that the earth is a globe.

Our elders are in good hands. All we need to do as caregivers is convince our elders that they are not likely to fall off the edge of the earth, as long as they remain under lifetime supervision of their highly skilled and revered doctors.

Good luck to my fellow caregivers everywhere in accomplishing such a tall order. You're already a miracle worker, remember?