Article Date: 12/1/2001

LESSONS LEARNED
The Super Seniors
A few factors to keep in mind when treating your elderly patients.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

I was recently asked to be a member of the Rome, Ga., Super Senior tennis team. The "super" unfortunately doesn't refer to the caliber of performance, but rather to the number of years the participants have lived. To play, you must be at least 62 years old, which seems to me an awfully young demarcation point. But as the city tennis director said to me, "If 62 is a super senior, at your age you must be a super-duper senior."

Factor in memory decay

Senior tennis, particularly for those in the "super-duper" age bracket, is different. For example, a typical match goes something like this:

10:00 Players arrive. One has come well-prepared with his knee brace, elbow strap, hat, sunglasses, can of balls, sun screen, towel and sweat band. He's forgotten only one thing -- his tennis racket.

10:15 Match finally begins after he borrows a racket.

10:22 Match stops while one player removes his shoe to adjust his ankle brace.

10:24 Discussion ensues because no one remembers the score.

ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER

10:28 We finally reach agreement on the score, but now no one can remember whose serve it is.

10:36 Match stops while one player rubs Bengay on his shoulder. Match resumes when other players' eyes quit watering from the fumes.

10:45 Match again stops as first player rushes to the restroom.

10:47 Player returns but now can't find his racket. Racket search ensues. Problem solved when it's discovered that I have his racket.

10:48 Search begins for my racket.

10:53 Much time has elapsed, creating another argument about the score -- and who's serving.

10:58 Second player has to go to the bathroom.

11:01 He returns, and third and fourth decide they'd better go too.

11:07 Search begins for the missing ball. After 5 minutes, one of the players remembers that it's in his pocket.

11:16 Discussion as to score and who's serving--ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Say what?

Memory decay isn't the only problem in scorekeeping by us over-the-hill players. Loss of hearing also presents problems.

"What's the score?" one of the players calls to an opponent across the net.

"What?" asks the opponent.

"I said, what's the score?" he yells.

"I think it's 30-15."

"I don't think that's right. I think it's 30-15."

However, the hearing problem may be a blessing. At times it keeps one from hearing the snide remarks from other players who have grown crotchety in their old age, such as:

"I played poorly last set because I was overconfident," one player tells me. "But I certainly won't have that problem now that you're my partner."

12:00 The match is finally over, and the players wend their way homeward. But, two of them wend their way back to pick up the tennis racket and jacket they forgot.

What's the connection?

What does all this have to do with optometric practice? It illustrates that you need to remember that your senior patients' memories and hearing abilities ain't what they used to be.

Thus it's always best to make certain your instructions to them are heard and understood. Go one step further and put them in writing.

And then cross your fingers that when patients get home, they'll remember to look at them!

JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2001