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Considering surgery?

This post in Kaiser Health News caught our eye today. It goes through the pros and cons, and what you need to think about and ask your surgeon when you are an older person and surgery is recommended to you.

Briefly, there is a LOT to consider, and the right choice for you may turn out to be NOT surgery. Factors such as your age, your general health, physical and mental condition, and – crucially – whether there are acceptable alternatives all have to enter into the picture. Be sure to ask the surgeon to go over worst-case, as well as best-case, scenarios.

Will you have help at home afterwards? How long will it be before you can resume normal activity? As an older person, fitness declines rapidly during periods of inactivity and it takes longer to build up to one’s previous level of fitness.

If, after all your questions are answered, surgery seems like the best option, then there’s a lot you can do to prepare yourself and your home to optimize your recovery. You might consult a physiotherapist for exercises you can do in a bed/chair to maintain muscle strength (or at least not lose too much). Get advice on diet adjustments that may be helpful from a nutritionist. Line up your helpers and give them specific tasks.

And good luck!

Surgery and frail elders

Yes, we all get old. Some of us do it more gracefully than others. But research suggests we should do our best to maintain strength and avoid frailty as long as possible. Frailty: one definition we read goes: “a multidimensional geriatric syndrome characterized by a decline of physical and cognitive reserves that leads to increased vulnerability.” Thank you, As the Victorian health website goes on to explain, frailty is associated with increased risk of poor outcomes after illness or surgery, falls, longer hospital stays, and, well, mortality.

This article is a few years old now, but it hasn’t lost its relevance. The point is that before agreeing to a surgical procedure, the patient’s level of frailty ought to be considered and surgeons need to be honest about the odds of a positive outcome. Some of us in the early Village years still have parents alive, and if that’s you, you may find this helpful.

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