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Wed, 22nd February 2017

Australia is an ageing population the papers continue to tell us. There are more and more retiring, and more and more living in excess of 100 years than ever before. What's more, the birth rate continues to rise steadily, now up around the 260k pa. Plus immigration at around 180k.

So, as the grey haired brigade swells, what happens to them. Australia is not great in caring for the elderly, as in many other nations where family layers and social customs differ from ours. Most kids like to "keep in touch", but aren't too keen on having them in a granny flat out the back.

The retirement accommodation business is now vast and growing. Retirement villages (now commonly called "resorts") are mushrooming all over the country. Many are commercially run. The private sector sees heaps of money, specially from younger "elders", cashed up with retirement handouts and huge super cheques.

There are also many church, not for profit and community groups out there with good offerings at affordable prices. On the other hand, many - probably the majority prefer to stay at home, especially if they have lived in the same house for the past 50 years. Know where the light switches are, where the steps are and can find the bathroom in the dark.

Nevertheless, when one partner vanishes, often its then time to move. The options are enormous. Make sure you know where you are going and all the consequences, social and financial involved. There are many government booklets giving sensible advice before making a choice. Read first and discuss with your closest rellies or advisers.



The kids keep on developing coughs, probably from chills or getting a cold. Which is the best cough mixture?


In the past couple of years, the medical journals (the holy graille for doctors) say none of them is any good. They are mainly sweetened syrups. Pholcodine, and various codeine derivatives are often included. The majority of coughs heal with or without intervention. Keeping the room warm, sitting in the bathroom filled with steam (actually water vapour) is old fashioned, costless but often effective. Wash the face with cold water after to "avoid another chill" (as my mum would say).

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I was using a grinding machine and a bit of stuff hit my eye. Now I can see a blurry "something".


Get to the eye specialist as a matter of urgency. Bits of hard grit, iron and metal particles may hit the cornea (window of the eye), and become embedded. If in the line of vision it can adversely affect images you see. It must be removed. With such a sensitive spot, precision and a steady hand are essential.

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Is it possible to dissolve gallstones to stop them causing trouble?


Gallstones are common, mostly in any age group from 40 up. They develop in the gall bladder as cholesterol in the bile salts produced in the liver coalesce and get bigger. Tiny ones can jam the "duct" and cause terrible pain just under the right lower rib cage and into the back. Many produce no symptoms and are detected by ultrasound probably for some other reason. Medication was once widely used to dissolve them, but on ceasing, they invariably returned. Today, with symptoms they are usually removed by laparoscopic intervention. This is quick and recovery rapid. Avoiding fatty foods after this is recommended.

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The inner side of my cheek is very sore. The dentist said it was due to a broken tooth I never knew existed.


This is common, more probably in an older person who has not taken much care of the teeth nor received the recommended annual dental check up. Regular brushing and flossing of the teeth is essential to avoid cavities (decay) and damage to the crown. If broken, the surface will gradually irritate and probably ulcerate the tender mucous lining of the oral cavity.

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The family has been away on a vacation, and now several of us have diarrhea. We were careful in food hygiene.


Infected food from flies, lack of adequate refrigeration are common causes for bugs to access the gastric system. Water infected with the giardia germ (originally imported from the Mediterranean villages) is forever increasing. Once rare, is now widespread, and holiday venues are often the source. Tinidazole (4 x 500 mg tablets taken at once) usually fixes. There are also other medications. Talk to your doctor first.

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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.



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Dr James Wright is associated with lovely Vimiera Retirement Village ( in the leafy Sydney (NSW) suburb of Eastwood. It is operated by Mediaid Centre Foundation (, a non-profit Public Benevolent Institution which provides housing for the elderly, as well as providing a large amount of health information.

Waiting to hear from you Dr James Wright.