If you’re caring for a parent or a senior, there will come a time when you will have to become involved in managing their medication. When the opportunity arises, check the medicine cabinet or drawer where they keep their medications. Are there any duplicate bottles of drugs with some missing while other bottles of the same medicine are full? This is a sign that medications are not being taken as prescribed but prescriptions are just being refilled. Do any bottles have a mixture of medications? This is dangerous because some medications may interact with each other before they’re even consumed. Are there any bottles of expired medications? Are there any unlabeled containers or baggies with a jelly bean assortment of drugs in them? These are all warning signs that it’s time for you to become involved in managing your loved one’s medications.
This is a particularly important issue for seniors because seniors over 65 are responsible for the purchase of 30% of all prescription drugs and over 40% of all over the counter drugs. They typically deal with multiple chronic conditions that result in taking several medications often prescribed in multiple doses. Studies have shown that between 40% and 75% of seniors fail to take their medications at the right dosage and on the prescribed schedule.
The first and most important step to take to successfully manage the medications is to make a list of every drug your senior consumes. This includes prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and any vitamins and herbal supplements. This list needs to be taken to the doctor every time the senior goes to the doctor. It needs to be reviewed by the doctor and the pharmacist for any possible interactions or side effects like dizziness or lightheadedness. Check the labels of the medication bottles. Are any of the same drugs found in several medications? For example, many over the counter medications for colds and sinus problems contain acetaminophen which is the drug in Tylenol. If your loved one uses both at the same time, they’re doubling up on medications. That can be dangerous. Check with the doctor whether a prescribed drug continues to be needed and don’t make any changes or adjustments on your own. Be sure to let the doctor know if you notice any medication affecting your senior in some new or unsafe manner.
Use the same pharmacy for all prescriptions so their computer system can check for possible drug interactions and open the bag the prescription comes in right there at the pharmacy before you go home. According to the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, up to 5% of filled prescriptions involve some sort of error. Make sure the name on the prescription bottle matches the name on the bag. If the pills look different from what you’re used to, talk to the pharmacist. Don’t pass up the counseling from the pharmacist. You need to be clear on how the drug should be taken, for how long it should be taken, and what side effects may be expected. If your senior has multiple medications, a divided pill box can serve to remind them of what to take and when to take it. Following these steps will help you manage your senior’s medication and make sure they get the right medications at the right time and in the right amount. Share your experiences below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in seniors over the age of 65, falls are to be blamed most often for non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions. Even worse, two thirds of senior accidental deaths result from injuries sustained from a fall. In hard numbers, that’s almost 20,000 deaths and more than two million emergency room visits at a medical cost of over $28 billion dollars a year. Of fall related injuries, hip fractures are the most common and have the most long term effects with only a quarter of seniors who suffer a hip fracture making a full recovery. Almost half of these seniors will lose their ability to walk and 40% of them will require care in a nursing home. This is definitely a major concern for our rapidly increasing senior population that needs to be addressed.
Preventive measures can be taken once you can identify the major risk factors for falls. Medical issues such as poor vision, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and diabetic neuropathy can cause mobility and sensory problems that can lead to falls. General inactivity on the part of the senior also leads to muscle weakness and inflexibility and increases fall risks also. Certain behaviors, such as alcohol use and interactions of medications pose a fall risk. Perhaps the most controllable risk is the senior’s environment. This includes hazards in the home and improperly sized walkers and canes.
By reducing these risk factors, falls among seniors can be significantly reduced. Several studies have show that an exercise program such as Tai Chi combined with strength training exercises increases mobility and flexibility while increasing muscle strength. Basically, moving more allows you to not only move more but also to do so with increased safety. Having medications reviewed by the senior’s doctor and pharmacist can identify possible side effects and problematic interactions. If necessary, alternative medications may be prescribed. Taking vitamin D3 supplements has been shown to reduce the risk of sustaining a fracture among women. A comprehensive vision exam can detect the presence of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other vision issues that can increase the risk of falls. The senior’s home can be modified by adding stair railing, increasing lighting, eliminating clutter, and removing scatter rugs. Adding grab bars in the tub/shower area provide stability for getting in and out of the tub. A combination of these strategies can reduce fall risks on many levels and go a long way toward allowing a senior to remain safely at home. Please share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to AARP, over 70% of the wealth in this country is controlled by seniors. That statistic alone is more than enough reason for senior citizens to be targeted by scammers. In fact, while most crime victims fall in the 18-35 year old age bracket, the victims of the scammers are disproportionately senior citizens. Scams targeting senior citizens generally spike during the summer months.
Some of the most common scams include the “grandparent” scam, the “lottery scam”, and the “utility” scam. In the grandparent scam, the con artist typically calls a senior and tricks them into providing personal information by saying something like “Hi Grandma, this is your favorite grandson”. When Grandma responds with “Hi Tony” (freely supplying a grandchild’s name) the con artist then claims to be that grandchild and lets Grandma know he needs cash for some sort of emergency while swearing Grandma to secrecy so his parents won’t find out. Scammers prey on the grandparent’s fear that their grandchild may be in trouble and needs help. In the lottery scam, the scammer informs the senior that they’ve won a foreign lottery. They then request money to be wired to cover taxes and fees. In addition, the scammer may ask for banking information in order to supposedly direct deposit the winnings. Foreign lotteries are illegal and this scam steals a person’s identity and allows access to personal finances. According to the Better Business Bureau, over $100 million dollars is scammed from unsuspecting “winners” on a yearly basis. In the utility scam, a caller pretends to be from one of the local utility companies and claim there’s a past due amount. They demand immediate payment to prevent a service shut off and require the payment be made through a Western Union MoneyGram. These scams and others like them have cost senior citizens over 2.9 billion dollars a year. This figure will certainly rise as more an more baby boomers reach their senior years and the pool of available victims grows.
The best defense against scammers is knowledge. With that in mind, the Better Business Bureau will now be producing a series of videos with reenactments of scams that target seniors. The videos will include alerts and information on how to recognize the signs of a particular scam. The first video reenacts the “lottery” scam and can be viewed on BBB’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/bbb1936. When it comes to senior scams, knowledge definitely is power. Please share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
In our culture, getting your driver’s license at 16 is a rite of passage that most teens look forward to. It’s a symbol of independence and represents the freedom to go places and do things. It becomes a major key to social activities, shopping, and even getting a job. This is true throughout our entire adult lives and especially true for aging seniors. That’s why seniors are so reluctant to give up their car keys, even if they suspect they should.
Although there is no specific age at which seniors need to stop driving, statistics by the Hartford Insurance Corporation show that in seniors over the age of 75 there’s a much greater risk of being in a car accident with every mile driven. The risk is about the same as for new drivers between the ages of 16 and 24. This increase in accidents is due primarily to the aging drivers’ decrease in senses, multiple chronic health conditions, and increased medication consumption. There are warning signs to look for that will let you know your loved one needs to give up the keys or to at least decrease the amount of driving they do. It’s a good idea to take a ride with them and see for yourself how they’re doing. Do they drift into other lanes or straddle two lanes? Do they drive particularly slowly or unduly fast for the road conditions? Do they fail to use their turn signal or do they leave it on without changing lanes? Do they ignore or miss traffic signs or traffic signals? Do they make sudden lane changes? Does your senior get disoriented easily, even when in familiar places? Have there been any “warnings” by the police? Are there any unexplained dents or scrapes on the car?
If you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to have that dreaded conversation about giving up the keys or at the very least minimize the amount of driving your senior does. Until that time when your loved one gives up their keys there are things they can do to help minimize the risks. Encourage them to limit their driving time to the daytime and not during rush hours. Get them to drive only during good weather and optimal road conditions. Make the trips short and use the most direct but safe routes. Keep the radio turned off and minimize the number of passengers in order to reduce distractions. Basically, apply the same strategies with your senior driver that you would apply to a novice teenaged driver. It’s also a good idea to have the pharmacist review your senior’s medications to determine if they can affect their driving. Making these gradual changes may allow your senior to ease into giving up driving. Surrendering the car keys is a major life change. It makes good sense to reduce the risks well before a major crisis mandates an immediate change. Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to the US Department of Labor, over half of America’s workforce is involved in some way with caring for an aging parent or relative. Up to eighty percent of this help is unpaid and according to AARP, the average caregiver provides personal care and does household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours per week. The road to becoming a caregiver for a loved one is often winding with a son or daughter occasionally “helping out”. Your parents slowly age and adaptations are made to accommodate gradual changes in their abilities. Perhaps you offer to help with their banking or write out the bills. If they need groceries you offer to drive them to the store or pick up a few things for them yourself. Maybe you go to the doctor with them to make sure they clearly understand what the doctor has to say. At this point, you don’t view yourself as a “caregiver”. You’re just being a helpful child.
As time goes by and your “helping out” becomes a necessity, it will dawn on you that you are in fact a caregiver. You realize one day that if you stop doing all those helpful things, your loved one won’t be able to function on their own. You now feel obligated to do all these things or to make arrangements so that they do get done. Your loved one’s daily functioning is now your personal responsibility. Welcome to the world of caregiving. You will soon realize what a demanding job this is particularly because you’ll also be juggling a job, family, and personal issues of your own. If your parent or loved one suffers a medical crisis, your level of providing care will rise dramatically. Although your desire may be to tackle this job totally on your own, doing that will surely result in stress, exhaustion, and even physical illness. No matter how much you love someone, where will you find all the hours in the day that you and your loved one need? Be careful not to allow yourself to reach the point of total exhaustion. If you use up all your time and energy to be a caregiver, you will no doubt be robbing you and your loved one of quality time that could otherwise be spent with each other. Be aware there will come a time when it makes sense to get some help. Be wary of taking on so much that you lose sight of your well meant goal of providing the best of care which your loved one both needs and deserves. The road to caregiving is long and full of potholes. Don’t let yourself get run over. Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
According to the Census Bureau, there are over 43.1 million persons in the United States that are 65 years of age or older. The elderly population is expected to double to 80 million when all the “baby boomers” have reached their elderly years. Due to advances in medical science these baby boomers will be living longer and that translates into huge numbers of people living with chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, or dementia. A large population of chronically ill older people means that more and more seniors will be dependant on others for help with their activities of daily living – in short, they’ll have a caregiver whether it’s a family member or a professional from an agency.
Caregivers are now and will increasingly in the future be an important component of doctor visits for the elderly. According to a study by Jennifer Wolff, PhD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doctor visits that include caregivers are an increasing trend that has important benefits. Her study showed that visits that included a caregiver lasted at least 20% longer and resulted in less social conversation between the doctor and the senior and more biomedical information being given to the patient. This is really important because a trip to the doctor is all about communication and the exchange of information. Doctors need information from patients to provide an accurate diagnosis and to provide treatment options. The patient needs to be able to clearly discuss and understand what’s going on. This is where the caregiver’s presence can be very valuable.
A caregiver can help the senior with every aspect of the visit beginning with getting ready for the visit by gathering all the necessary medical history information and making a list of current medications and by preparing a list of symptoms for the doctor along with any questions the senior may have. During the visit, the caregiver can make notes for the senior and can remind them of any symptoms they may have forgotten and can relate to the doctor any changes in the senior’s general health and abilities. In effect, the caregiver is a second set of eyes and ears and can request further clarification about the diagnosis, treatment options, and what can be expected down the line. After the visit, a caregiver can support the senior’s compliance with the doctor’s instructions by encouraging them to follow the prescribed course of treatment along with taking their medications as prescribed and by helping them further understand the doctor’s instructions if necessary. This in turn can help reduce possible hospital readmissions.
According to the study by Dr. Wolff, seniors and loved ones who have been accompanied by a caregiver to a doctor ended up being more satisfied with their overall care and were shown to be more likely to remember important information after their visit to the doctor. Please share your thoughts and experiences below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
It’s been slow coming but summer has finally arrived. It won’t be long before we start hearing TV and radio announcements about municipal “cooling centers” being opened. These announcements point to the importance of staying hydrated, particularly in the summer. This is especially critical for the elderly and the frail. Dehydration can quickly lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke for this group. Older people are at a greater risk of dehydration for several reasons. While a younger person’s body naturally cools itself through the production of perspiration, this mechanism may not work as well in a senior due to natural aging changes and the assortment of medications they may be taking for a variety of chronic conditions. These medications include antihistamines, antidepressants, motion sickness medication, anti asthma drugs, diuretics which are often prescribed for hypertension, and some heart medications. In addition, as we get older our kidneys are less efficient at conserving water and unlike camels, we can’t store it. By the time your aging loved one’s body sends them the “I’m thirsty” signal, they may be well on the way to being dehydrated. Seniors who have dementia may simply forget to drink and those who suffer from neurological disorders may have difficulty swallowing. Those who are frail need assistance to drink. Any combination of these factors can lead to dehydration.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there are signs of dehydration to look for: dizziness, confusion, constipation, increased fatigue, increased body temperature, dry mouth, reduced sweating, sunken eyes, and low blood pressure. As a caregiver, taking extra measures to keep your loved one hydrated requires vigilance but in this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Be sure to offer fluids on a regular basis, at least every couple of hours. Although plain, clear water is the best choice, any liquid is better than none so offer your loved one their preferred beverage frequently. Be sure to serve beverages with meals and encourage more than a sip of water to wash down medications. Try serving foods that are naturally “wet” such as soups, yogurt, ice cream, and smoothies. Encourage your loved one to drink small quantities frequently rather than a lot at one time. A frail senior needs at least 6 cups of fluids per day but consult their doctor if they take diuretics, have kidney disease, or have congestive heart failure. How do you make sure your senior gets enough fluids? Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com