Thursday, February 6, 2014

Walking. Function. Geriatrics.

A Walk in the Park, #CentralPark #NYC #snow 2013
A Walk in the Park
I admit it, I have been a bit obsessed with walking since having my toe surgery last September (there is a run of posts that begins with Wiggling My Toes where I talk about the surgery and my post-operative progress.  There is also my more recent commitment, gulp, to walk a half marathon this year (Resolved).  This week, my podiatrist cleared me to train for that little adventure.  That's a good thing because I had already kind of started doing that (training that is).  I'll get more serious come the spring and I will walk that half marathon come fall with my dear friend Linda.  Or so I think.

On Tuesday, I walked to the podiatrist's office.  It was a beautiful day for a walk in Central Park.  Quiet and peaceful after a Monday storm had dumped about 8 inches of snow on NYC.  The trees were still coated in white.  Because school was not canceled, the park was primarily filled with adult walkers, runners, the occasional biker, and Moms with strollers.  It was a warm enough day that I could shed layers, my hat, and even my gloves.  In short, the sort of day that one wants to spend walking many miles in the park.

Along the way, I took photos of snow covered trees but also snapped some shots with people in them.   And, you guessed it, they were walking.  Then I saw them -- a pair of men.  Younger and older.  The younger man holding the arm of the older gentleman and the older gentleman steadily pushing his walker.  As is my habit, I waited until I had passed them, turned around and snapped a picture of them walking through the winter wonderland that was Central Park.  Enjoying the scenery.  Enjoying the walk.

Out and About with a Little Help from a Friend, #centralpark #nyc #snow 2013
Our and About with a Little Help from a Friend
By this point you are probably thinking there is an awful lot here about walking so when is she going to explain what she means by function and for sure what the heck does geriatrics have to do with walking?  I know that's what I would be thinking.  And, by way of full disclosure, in my work I focus on improving care of older adults and count many geriatrics health professionals as colleagues and friends.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

Here's the deal.  We have a lot of complicated ways of talking about geriatrics, geriatricians, and geriatrics health professionals.  More to the point, I have a lot of ways of answering the question -- what do they do, those geriatrics health professionals that you are always blathering on about?  (As a total aside, I prefer to think of it as "waxing rhapsodic".)

Walking the Dog, #centralpark #nyc #snow 2013
Walking the Dog
A typical explanation of geriatrics that I might give would go something like this: geriatrics is the field of medicine that focuses on the diseases and disorders of older adults.  Inevitably, this triggers a follow up question, what are the diseases and disorders of older adults?  Um, pretty much the same ones that you get when you are younger but different because you are different because you are older.
Blank stare. Huh?

Or something I might say when asked about what geriatrics health professionals do?  They focus on preserving function and quality of life for older adults.
Function?  Quality of life?  Scratching of head.  

Another answer to that same question goes something like this: geriatricians and other geriatrics health professionals take care of frail, complex older adults many of whom have multiple chronic conditions.  Frail. Complex. Multiple Chronic Conditions. Ok, whatever you say!

Sometimes I think that this must sound a bit like the adults do in Charlie Brown television shows.
Wah, Wah, Wah, Wah Wah.  

Which brings me back to walking.  I had surgery in September so I could walk without pain and could get back to the things I love doing.  It was mainly a decision based on what I needed to do to live the life I want to live.  Which, as a New Yorker, pretty much requires a fair bit of walking.

So here's the answer to that same question I asked above --  what do they do, those geriatrics health professionals that you are always blathering on about?  Only this time, answering it through the lens of how I thought about my recent surgery.  If you have a minute, let me know what you think about this approach in the comments.

Swinging in the Snow, #centralpark #nyc #snow 2013
Swinging in the Snow
Geriatrics health professionals focus on keeping you in your life.  They work with you to keep you doing what you want to do for as long as you can possibly be doing it.  They know that more often than not it's not about curing what ails you but rather about how you will live with what ails you.  So they ask about how you are doing with simple things like getting dressed and bathing.  They watch how you are walking and review all of your medicines.  They talk with you about things that can help you to live the life that you want to live and they don't shy away from talking about how you might want to die.  They look at the whole of you rather than just a part of you.

In a nutshell, geriatrics health professionals focus on keeping you walking.

Winter Wonderland, #centralpark #nyc #snow 2013
Winter Wonderland


  1. I am looking forward to helping you prepare for that half marathon walk Nancy! And in the final paragraph I think you explained very well what geriatrics health professionals do.

    1. Thanks Linda. You may regret it (the helping me prepare that is) -- although I did get three miles in this weekend. ;o)