As a growing number of the estimated 78 million Baby Boomers transition into their senior years, an increased focus is placed on the health of this group of Americans. According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 12 percent of the total U.S.population is over age 65 and, of that segment, more than half will undergo at least one surgical procedure as senior citizens.

Research indicates that seniors are at an increased risk for experiencing complications both during and after surgery.

"Surgical procedures are understandably intimidating and it is a central role of the anesthesiologist to inform and care for the senior patient, before, during and after surgery," said Terri Monk, M.D., M.S., Duke University Medical Center. "The driving force behind these tips and the additional information found on LifelinetoModernMedicine.com was to create a central resource for seniors having surgery."

Tips to Help Seniors and Caregivers Prepare for Surgery

1. Get to know your physicians

When considering whether or not to have surgery, find out if the surgery is really necessary and what benefits it will provide. You should also talk to the anesthesiologist prior to surgery and consider scheduling a consultation with a geriatric specialist, particularly if you are taking multiple medications. A geriatric anesthesiologist specializes in treating the geriatric patient, and he or she has specific experience caring for the elderly both preoperatively and postoperatively.

Lastly, if you may be depressed, please see a psychiatrist and seek treatment prior to surgery. This is extremely important because depression has been tied to higher mortality rates in surgical patients. The psychiatrist, in consultation with other members of the surgical team, may also recommend minimizing the use of sedatives, especially long-acting drugs such as benzodiazepines.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the procedure

Having a surgical procedure can bring up a lot of questions, and it is important to bring that list of questions to your preoperative appointments in order to ensure you are as educated and confident as possible. Important questions to ask include:

  • Can you tell me more about the procedure?
  • Where will the surgery be conducted?
  • What do I need to do before the procedure?
  • At what point in the procedure will anesthesia be administered? What type of anesthesia will I receive?
  • Who will be my anesthesia provider?
  • When can I speak with my anesthesiologist?