September 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
Last week we highlighted a few studies that were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. The report from Oregon Health & Science University tracked patients with mild cognitive impairment (a risk factor for Alzheimer’s) over three years. They tracked their activities outside of the home. Researchers found the more time the participants spent at home translated to less outside stimulation, and ultimately, more isolation and depression.
Previously there have been several studies that have shown a lack of social support is related to negative impacts on health and well being, especially for older people. Having a variety of positive social supports can contribute to psychological and physical wellness of elderly individuals. Support from others can be important in reducing stress, increasing physical health and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
Where are my car keys? What’s that guy’s name again? What did I come in here for? All of these are questions we have probably asked ourselves in the past week. We are pushed to accomplish more and more in a day and when you are in a hurry or in a social situation it can be easy to forget tasks or details.
Luckily, for most of us, having a little memory lapse doesn’t mean Alzheimer’s or dementia. While being forgetful can increase as we age, there are some ways we can help our memory. Here is a list of memory boosting tips: « Read the rest of this entry »
July 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
A few months ago we wrote about the impact hospitals have on seniors in general. We referred to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found at least one-third of patients older than 70, leave the hospital more frail than when they arrived, and many become too weak to go home. Last week, a similar story ran in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
This latest study showed the effects of hospitalization on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease was even greater than the general senior population. The article concluded the patient’s risk for an adverse outcome is greatly increased after a stay in the hospital. In fact, the risk is three times greater for the over 5 million Americans with the disease than for those without it. These facts are particularly frightening when you consider the number of people with Alzheimer’s is projected to rise to 15 million in the next 30 to 40 years. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
Sometimes when visiting with an elder we find ourselves repeating a story or fact that we are sure we already told. Most of the time we rack it up to simple forgetfulness. “Maybe they didn’t hear me the first time or maybe they weren’t really paying attention.” But for some seniors lapse in memory is a sign of something more serious to come. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
This Thanksgiving while you are spending time with family and friends, take time to pay special attention to the seniors in your life. Many times we are visiting someone that we don’t see often so changes in health and mental sharpness can be more noticeable to family members that aren’t around as much. The holidays often provide an excellent opportunity to observe your loved ones and see if there are any changes in their well being. And with other family generally close at hand, there is the chance to discuss any issues and if there is need for additional care.
Depending on the length of your visit, you may want to try to observe the following:
- Status of new and pre-existing medical conditions – How is their general health? You may want to ask about common conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hearing loss, arthritis and weight gain or loss
- Memory and Emotional Changes – Is your loved one experiencing frequent memory lapses that affect their day-to-day functionality? Emotional differences to look for are changes in personality or unusual mood swings.
- Medications – Are their perscriptions organized with weekly pill boxes? Do they have a list of all the medications (perscription & over-the-counter) they are taking and have they shown the list to all of their doctors? Are they taking their perscriptions correctly? For medications to be effective, patients need to follow directions for when to take pills and with or without food, etc.
- Home Safety – Keep an eye out for issues in the home that may limit your seniors mobility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports falls are the leading cause of injury and death for Americans age 65 years and older. Many times easy adjustments like removing throw rugs, adding a night light or simply rearranging furniture can help seniors avoid hazardous situations.
- Driving – If they are still driving, take a ride with them to see how their driving ability is or ask a neighbor if they have seen any issues.
- Doctors – Do you have a list of their doctors and their contact information in case of an emergency?
- Resources – It may be a good time to find out what local resources are available in case your loved one needs some additional care in the future. Waiting until their well being is in danger will only add stress to an already tense situation.
Above all else, take the time to truly enjoy your loved ones this holiday season and remember what you have to be thankful for.
If you have any questions or concerns about a family member that may need additional care, please contact the Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC. The law firm located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients. Their office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.
September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
At 83 years old, Martha still lived in her own home, and enjoyed working in her garden and canning peaches. It was becoming harder to motivate herself, to get up in the mornings and accomplish the day’s tasks. She confided to her daughter that she felt anxious and tired. Her daughter, who was taking medication for her anxiety, took Martha to her own doctor, not Martha’s and got her a prescription for Valium. In doing so, the daughter’s doctor, who had never seen Martha and who did not have her medical history, was only aware of a few medications they told him she was taking.
Martha, in fact, was taking nine different medications as well as herbal supplements. The addition of Valium to her existing list of prescribed drugs sent her to the emergency room with respiratory distress. If she had gone to her own doctor, he would have found that a dosage adjustment of her current medications would have solved her anxiety.
Medication errors are common in the elderly. Many seniors take on average 6-8 different prescriptions as well as over the counter drugs. Many times the elderly will not go back to their doctor to have their dosage evaluated and changed if necessary. Family members should be aware that elderly parents may tend to take the family’s advice over going to their own doctor. Even though children want to help increase the health and stamina of their parents, they may in fact be causing damage by misdirecting their loved ones.
Where a younger person can benefit from herbal supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, Saw Palmetto and others, in older people, these herbals may cause adverse reactions with their prescription medications. In 2003, a panel of experts put together a list of potential medications that would not be appropriate to give to seniors. This is called the “Beers List” after one of the research professionals.
Dr. Donna M. Fick, R.N., associate professor of nursing at Penn State and one of the panel members for updating the “Beers List,” states in her article on Seniorjournal.com:
Just as our bodies physically slow down as we age, changes occur in the way that older bodies handle pharmaceuticals, and this has motivated experts to develop a list of drugs that may be harmful to elderly patients.
“With age, drugs tend to build up in the body, and the distribution and elimination of drugs from the body changes as well,” says Dr. Fick. “Many drugs, like diazepam (Valium) and other anti-anxiety drugs build up fast.”
An on-line article on HealthSquare.com titled “Drugs and the Elderly,” talks about physical symptoms and medications.
Among the first signs that a drug may not be working properly in an older person is a change in mood, energy, attitude, or memory. Too often, these alterations are overlooked, ignored, or chalked off to “old age” or senility. Older people may themselves feel that their blue mood is caused by something external such as the death of a friend or simply by boredom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Virtually every heart medication, blood pressure drug, sleeping pill, and tranquilizer has been known to trigger depressive symptoms.
When a psychological symptom appears in an older person, examine his or her medication or drug use first. Consider, too, factors like alcohol intake, poor nutrition, and hormone imbalance. And never dismiss the possibility that a real psychological problem has developed and may itself require medication.
There are many things family members can do to help monitor medications for their elderly parents:
- make a list of medicines prescribed and all supplements and vitamins being taken;
- give this list to the doctor and pharmacist and have one on hand for emergencies;
- use the same pharmacy to fill all prescriptions — pharmacies have a record of your prescribed drugs and will verify your doctor’s instructions — they will also tell you if foods or over the counter supplements will interact with a prescription;
- dispense pills in a daily pill organizer box;
- have a family member be responsible to call or physically monitor the taking of medication.