New survey shows incontinence a major concern to older men

New survey shows incontinence a major concern to older men

  • On May 8, 2012
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A new survey carried out by Cara Tannenbaum, M.D., M.Sc. a geriatrician and researcher in the health promotion in Canada shows that for ageing men their greatest concern over health issues and priorities are about maintaining one’s independence and quality of life.

Mobility impairments (64%), memory loss (64%) and medication side effects (63%) ranked top among their list of concerns. Vision loss (61%), hearing loss (52%) and falls (51%) followed in second place.

Paradoxically, health practitioners appear not to be providing older men with adequate health information on the issues of greatest concern to them. With the exception of addressing medication side effects, men reported that only a minority of them had received counselling on strategies to prevent, screen, and treat health-related conditions that could threaten their physical and mental health. For example, respondents reported that risk factors and screening for mobility impairment and memory loss were only discussed with 13% and 9% of them respectively.

The survey reveals important information gaps for depression (only 9.5% declared that their health care provider had discussed this with them), end-of-life care (12%), osteoporosis (13.5%), Alzheimer’s disease (16%), anxiety (17%) and incontinence (18%). Additionally, because of stigma surrounding incontinence, patients are reluctant to bring up the issue on their own.

The good news is that health problems such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia and prostate disease appear to be well managed, since more than 80% of respondents said that they had been provided with information, screening or treatment for these conditions.

Dr. Tannenbaum, the geriatrician in charge of the investigation, was struck by the disparity between what older men want and what they seem to be receiving from health care professionals. “It is time for the health care system to invest in strategies for older adults to preserve their autonomy, mental health and well-being. As older men and women’s health priorities become better understood, a shift in the way health care is delivered and reimbursed will be required. More time is needed during the patient’s health care encounter to provide individualized counselling about exercise, nutrition, bladder, and brain health in old age. Incontinence post-prostatectomy is becoming more frequent and has a devastating impact on a man’s self-esteem and sexual function. Depression and anxiety, resulting from sensory impairments or the loss of loved ones, and the resultant social isolation that can ensue, are also important issues for men that need to be addressed in order to promote continued independence and quality of life”, states Dr. Tannenbaum. “Increased awareness of these issues through public health campaigns or accredited information on a website for seniors will have to be developed to inform the population of age-related health challenges and how they can be appropriately managed”.

Although women worry more based on results from the 2005 Canadian survey on older women’s health priorities, men appear to share many of the same concerns as women for healthy aging. What stands out for every health issue is that more women worry than men. For example, 88% of older women identified mobility problems, memory loss and medication side effects as their top three health concerns, while only 64% of men admit to being concerned about these issues. Differences can be explained by women’s tendency to be more preoccupied by health issues, possibly as a result of the caregiving roles they traditionally assume for their parents, spouses and children.