Background On The Elderly, Sex, And Diseases
In the world of medicine, there are several strains of diseases and viruses, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) have now become known as the most common and preventable health care problems in the world. As our global population continues to age with it brings the increase in the number of older adults, along with healthcare advances that provide better and longer quality of life, have encouraged changes in the sexual behavior of this older faction of our society. This increase has caused healthcare professionals to familiarize themselves with the sexuality of older adults. However, there is not continuity of this attention to detail across the board. In this research piece, I plan to delve into the significance of this topic, the concerns this issue poses for the public, and interventions that can be implemented, as well as provide an analysis of a study I carried out.
The denotative meaning of the term Sexually Transmitted Disease refers to a vast number of infectious organisms that include viruses and bacteria which are transmitted primarily through the act of sexual intercourse. These viruses can also be transmitted via non-sexual activities such as needles sharing during drug use, blood transfusions, and vertical transmission from mother to child. The majority of surveillance and prevention measures for Sexually Transmitted Diseases are typically geared towards adolescent and younger members of our populations, thus leaving the older adult population unrecognized and vulnerable to infection.
The challenges associated with this particular sector of our population are directly related to psychosocial, physiological, economic, and behavioral factors. Issues such as these can cause various obstacles for the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases due to their influence on accessibility to care, willingness to receive treatment, and social behaviors regarding sex and sexuality. More often, senior citizens are viewed as asexual beings who no longer possess the desire to engage in intimate relationships. Contrary to this belief, this age group is actually very much sexually active and does, in fact, engage in sexual activity quite frequently. Senior citizen beliefs regarding the proclivities of sexual activity stem from an era of sexual revolution where experimentation and sexual inhibitions were freely exhibited with minimal consequences, and this time period has been calculated in history as being around the 1960s. This belief system became more conservative as communicable diseases began to emerge. The evolution of these beliefs over the years changed owing to more traditional, social, and moral behaviors. Even with this being the case, those beliefs are disappearing, and causal liaison is becoming more accepted amongst the older adult populations.
In the narrative of transmission, there are gender disparities that exist. The reproductive anatomy of women is composed of vascular mucous membranes, and thus, the transfer of Sexually Transmitted Diseases takes place a lot more quickly in women than in their male counterparts. Unfortunately, women also have much more of an affinity for more health-related problems associated with Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Untreated Sexually Transmitted Diseases can mutate and become more complicated illnesses such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervical cancer, and even death from neurological and cardiovascular effects. The risk in both senior citizen men and women may be more susceptible to Sexually Transmitted Diseases. As the aging process occurs, the immune system begins to weaken and therefore becomes more vulnerable to infection.
Viral and bacterial illness such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and syphilis, are becoming more prevalent in the senior citizen population. As per the results from The Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2015 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a significant rise in the number of infection cases in the senior citizen population. From the CDC, They have sexually transmitted Disease Surveillance Report of 2015, the percentage of infected adults with Sexually Transmitted Diseases over the age of 55 spiked. The spikes were noted to be from among adults aged 55-64, followed by adults age 65+.
Sexually transmitted diseases are a significant public health problem that continues to persist here in the United States. This issue among the senior citizen population typically unrecognized by the public, policymakers, as well as health care officials. The continually rising cost of treatment options, along with clinical complications associated with Sexually Transmitted Diseases, is placing a heavy burden on the U.S healthcare system. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexually transmitted diseases place a significant economic strain on the U.S healthcare system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conservatively estimates that the lifetime cost of treating the most common Sexually transmitted diseases contracted is 15.6 billion annually. Although the older adult population will not pay billions of dollars for treatment, they may lack the resources and or funds to pay for medical bills or prescriptions associated with the treatment of Sexually transmitted diseases.
The older adult population is not likely to have health-seeking behaviors when it comes to Sexually transmitted diseases. The asymptomatic nature, along with the sluggish identification of signs and symptoms of Sexually transmitted diseases from older adults, can lead to a vicious cycle of transmission of the diseases from person to person. This kind of endemic in the older adult population can lead to epidemic levels causing concern for the public. This issue should be addressed on local, state, and federal levels.
There has been a low priority by policymakers in allocating resources towards educating the older adult population for primary prevention methods about Sexually transmitted diseases. The age disparities that exist with the risk of contracting Sexually transmitted diseases are not targeted for the older adult population.
The focus for this population should be concentrated on primary prevention methods such as education. Mostly, older adults should receive the same information concerning Sexually transmitted diseases as other vulnerable populations. Community Health Nurses can act as advocates as well as educators to help this population learn relevant information about the modes of transmission, long and short-term effects, treatment options, and, most important methods of prevention such as condom usage. Getting this information to this population is vital for preventing the spread of Sexually transmitted diseases.
The Community Health nurse can also focus on secondary prevention methods such as screenings and identification of early signs and symptoms of Sexually transmitted diseases. The Medicare program that provides medical insurance to persons 65 years or older, also covers free Sexually transmitted diseases screenings and low-cost treatment options, many older adults are not aware of this. Tertiary prevention could focus on explaining the importance of medication compliance for treatable Sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, Community Health Nurses need to start addressing sexual behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge towards Sexually transmitted diseases with the older adult population. Identifying these can help to implement policies and interventions geared directly towards this targeted population.
Assessments on the population should be conducted by the Community Health Nurse to ensure that vital data is collected and reported to necessary agencies. Monitoring should also occur by these agencies, and information should be made available to the communities about health concerns. Leadership roles need to emerge, and the development of the policies necessary to support the older adult population sexuality should develop. Nurses should be involved in the policy process and understand how significant their involvement is to the communities they serve.
The goals of the Community Health Nurse should be to strengthen the community capacity to handle the increase in the older adult population who remain sexually active. Many older adults have limited transportation options and are unable to travel outside of their communities to seek treatment or resources. By creating an infrastructure inside these communities, Community Health Nurses can help in improving and providing quality health services with physicians who are familiar with the population.
Counseling of the older adult population should occur to assist with the coping measure of psychological and psychosocial effects from Sexually transmitted diseases. Community Health Nurses can also help bring awareness to this population by working with organizations or agencies such as the American Social Health Association (AHSA) and The National Network of STD/ HIV Prevention Training Centers (PTC). Their missions place emphasis on the improvement of sexual health in individuals, families, and communities, along with the training that increases the knowledge and skills of health care professionals. Signs and symptoms associated with Sexually transmitted diseases are often overlooked or misdiagnose and connected to age-related health problems. Having health care professionals who know how to elicit forthcoming information from this population can help provide accurately and detail information about the older adult sexual history and activity.
As a member of the community, ensuring that the transmission of Sexually transmitted diseases is slowed through prevention methods is something that I am passionate about. Sexually transmitted diseases are becoming more and more resistant to treatment and in the future, may become incurable. Non-sexual exposure, such as blood transfusions or organ donations, still puts me and many others at risk. If the numbers of an infected person who have untreatable Sexually transmitted diseases were to increase and persons infected outweighed persons uninfected, then the health care system as we know it would be in trouble. Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the older adult population has enough prevalence to be addressed by all levels of the government. Communicable diseases are preventable, and there should be a decrease occurring in the incidence rather than an increase. Interventions for the older adult population should be a focus on education. Sexually transmitted diseases are not going to become extinct in the future, so an ongoing collaboration is vital to the health of the population.