The hallmark of aging? Heterogeneity, says this geriatrician


dr-laura-a-mosqueda-md-faafp-agsf-family-medicinePerhaps you are faced with a dilemma like the one we’re grappling with in my family:  What to do about an elderly relative, who lives alone-who needs help, but refuses to accept it?   For clues on how to navigate this situation, I leapt at the chance to speak to an expert, geriatrician Dr. Laura Mosqueda, chair and professor of family medicine and geriatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Even as a child, Dr. Mosqueda said, she was drawn to older people.  She found them engaging, and she was fascinated by the neurology of aging.

Now, she’s at the top of her field, serving, too, as the director of the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Turns out that just by how I’m referring to my aunt’s situation, I’m committing a small but palpable bit of elder abuse.  Language is important, the doctor reminds me.  Her approach is evident in her thoughtful manner: “What’s the kindest most loving way we can help people achieve their goals and how does that fit in with our medical care?”  The older we get, the more vulnerable we are, and the more different we become, she says.  “Heterogeneity is the hallmark of aging.”

There aren’t enough  geriatricians to take care of all the old people in our country, Dr. Mosqueda told me.  Listen to our conversation for how she and her colleagues are preparing to deal with the fact that one person is turning 50 every seven seconds.  As for my aunt, the fix isn’t as simple as I’d hoped.

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