Helping Older Adults Live Longer, Stay Independent

Snell_R_JeffreyBy Jeffrey Snell, MD

Many patients leave a lasting impression on me, but there are two patients in particular who really inspire me. It’s a husband and wife: He’s 91 years old, and she’s 89.

Even though they’re at an age when a lot of people are unable to live independently, they’re still living at home. They basically take care of themselves. They’re still mentally sound, and even though they need walkers, they’re able to get out and get around. They go grocery shopping together. She still cooks dinner every night, and he does the dishes.

It’s something you don’t see very often. Thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer, but a great many of my older patients are in nursing homes or are dependent on their children because their age or illnesses have left them unable to fully care for themselves.

I’ve been treating both the husband and wife for several decades now for various cardiovascular issues. They come together to my office every six months for check-ups, and they’re both doing pretty well, medically speaking, as a result of the procedures and therapies they’ve had over the years.

Every time I see this couple, I’m reminded of all the ways I can help my patients live and remain independent longer in spite of their cardiovascular problems. The husband has heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, and there have been multiple times where he was extremely sick, and our team pulled him through. In fact, he wouldn’t be alive today were it not for the advent of angioplasty, because as he got older he was no longer a good candidate for bypass surgery, but we were able to do successful angioplasties to reopen his arteries.

At one point, about a decade ago, his peripheral vascular disease was severely restricting his ability to walk. We did an angioplasty and put in a stent, and that restored much of his mobility.

Meanwhile, the wife’s chronic conditions have put her at increased risk for stroke, so we have her on blood thinners to prevent stroke-causing clots from forming. If she suffers a stroke, she and her husband won’t be able to lead the life they do now, so I want to do everything in my power to prevent it from happening.

Jeffrey Snell, MD, is director of the Interventional Cardiology Program at Rush University Medical Center.

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