Medication Problems and the Elderly

January 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

At 83 years old, Martha still lived in her own home and enjoyed working in her garden and canning peach.  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 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 six to eight 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, it 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., one of the panel members for updating the “Beers List”, states in her article on

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. Donna M. Fick, R.N., associate professor of nursing at Penn State.  “Many drugs, like diazepam (Valium) and other anti-anxiety drugs build up fast.”

An online article on 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 farther 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:
have a list of all medicines prescribed and all supplements being taken;

  • give a list to the doctor and pharmacist and have one on hand for emergencies;
  • have the same pharmacy fill all prescriptions
  • keep pills in a daily pill box organizer;
  • have a family member who is responsible for physically monitoring the taking of medication;

Family members who live long distances from their elders have available to them new technology in medication monitoring:

  • alarms for pill boxes, watch alarms, medical alarm bands and necklaces that ring a reminder;
  • computerized pill box dispensers that ring a designated number if the pills have not been taken
  • home care agencies offer a variety of service options and may help with medication management

Overmedication or taking medication incorrectly may lead to early mental confusion and decline in health in seniors.  If medication problems were ranked as a disease in cause of death, it would be the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.  (From an article on LongTermLiving).

Puzzle Smooth If you have any questions or concerns about protecting your loved one please contact Legacy Law Firm, LLC.  The firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334 or email at
LEGACY LAW FIRM, LLC:  Helping your family build a lasting legacy from one generation to the next.


Real Estate Scams Target Elderly

December 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

With the real estate market continuing to decline, homeowners are faced with the discouraging reality that their home has significantly lost value and many struggle with the fact that they now owe more than their home is worth.  To make a bad situation worse, there are some con artists that are using the opportunity to take advantage of elderly homeowners.

“Current real estate market conditions have opened the doors for financial elder abuse by obtaining property through undue influence or fraud,” says Elizabeth Ernster, an attorney with Ernster Law Offices, P.C., in Pasadena, California (  “The unfortunate reality is that many seniors are being swindled by real estate agents who have convinced them into selling their home for less than its market value, and then making a large profit off the sale.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Holidays A Good Time To Assess Your Elderly Parent’s Health 

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

The approaching holidays provide a festive reason for families to share some quality time together.  While Thanksgiving can make a good excuse to have an extra helping of pie, it can also be an excellent time to assess how elderly relatives are fairing.  And having the family together can also provide your family a chance to discuss plans for future care and arrangements.

The AARP ( has put together a list of things to look for when you visit your senior family members this season. « Read the rest of this entry »

Beware – Medicare Scams

November 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

As if open enrollment for Medicare wasn’t stressful enough, there are now several scams that seniors need to be aware of while they are enrolling.  Most of the cons aim to either sell the senior unnecessary coverage plans or to simply steal their identity.  Either way, the con artists can be very convincing.

A comprehensive list of the most common scams was collected by  Please take the time to read the list below.  Education is the best way to protect yourself from these cons: « Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Be Their Next Victim

October 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Unfortunately we have noticed a couple recent posts on Facebook about our friends’ elderly relatives being swindled.  The most recent post involved an elderly woman who lives in an assisted living facility.  She received a call from a person claiming to be her granddaughter.  The girl said she had been arrested in Mexico because she was caught with marijuana.  The caller begged “Grandma” to help and not tell her parents about the situation.  She said she needed Grandma to wire $3900 right away so she could be released from jail.  The Grandma did as she was asked.  Once the money had been wired, the girl called back within hours and said she needed another $2500.  Luckily before Grandma could send the second installment, her son arrived and stopped her.

Of course this is just one of many scams that thieves use to target the elderly.  A popular con that occurs after a storm or natural disaster is carried out by crooks commonly called “storm chasers” because they sweep into an affected area after a storm to try and bilk unsuspecting homeowners.  Many times these men ask for upfront money, promise a quick repair and then disappear.  Avoid this type of scam by checking the Better Business Bureau, get proof of a contractor’s license and workers compensation insurance and get everything in writing (estimates, materials, prices and completion dates).

Another way to steer clear of many phone scams is to avoid answering calls from area code 876.  This code appears to be in the U.S. but it is actually from Jamaica.  According to the AARP, “Approximately 30,000 calls are made from Jamaica into the United States – each day – attempting to defraud American citizens.”

Many times calls from 876 will tell the person who answers the phone that they have won a lottery prize and all they need to do to claim their prize is to pay the tax on the prize through a wire transfer.  It is important to remind elderly loved ones to not answer calls with an 876 area code, but also remind them that they should never have to pay money for a prize they haven’t received yet.

If you do find yourself or loved one has been duped by a con, your first step should be to contact the police department.  Unfortunately if the money was paid in cash or wired, it is highly unlikely it will be recovered.  If in the process of the scam you released bank or credit card information, you will need to contact the appropriate bank or card provider to have a hold placed on the account.  You may also want to contact a lawyer in case of potential identity theft.

Remember education is the best way to prevent becoming victim of a scam.

The Legacy Law Firm, LLC is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334 or email at

Weekly Law Office Logo   Legacy Law Firm – helping create a lasting legacy from one generation to the next.

Healthy Aging – Physically, Mentally and Financially

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

The month of September brings a welcome relief from the hot summer days.  Cool breezes and colorful foliage appearing on the trees entice one to walk and bask in healthy fresh air.

September has also been designated as “Healthy Aging Month” with encouragement to seniors to renew their attitudes towards better eating, exercise, and mental stability.  With the nation’s senior population growing there is more focus on programs to help seniors remain healthy and active as they age physically, mentally and emotionally.

WebMD’s online magazine’s feature article by Matt McMillen focuses on the “September National Theme” with “tips to stay at your peak!”

1. Get moving – Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy body and brain.
2. Stay social – Take a class, volunteer, play games, see old friends, and make new ones.
3. Bulk up – Eat beans and other high-fiber foods for digestive and heart health.
4. Add some spice – Add herbs and spices to your meals if medications dull your taste buds.
5. Stay balanced – Practice yoga or tai chi to improve agility and prevent falls.
6. Take a hike – Brisk daily walks this September can bolster both your heart and lungs.
7. Sleep well – Talk to a sleep specialist if you don’t sleep soundly through the night.
8. Beat the blues – If you’ve been down for a while, see a doctor. Depression can be treated.
9. Don’t forget – To aid your memory, make lists, follow routines, slow down, and organize.

An article this month on the Mayo Clinic website titled “Healthy Retirement” states that:

“Most adults spend years looking forward to a healthy retirement.  Whether you’re still planning your retirement or you’re ready to make the change, there’s much you can do to ensure a healthy retirement.
Start by learning what to expect as you get older, from changes in muscle mass to vision and cardiovascular health.  After all, your dreams for a healthy retirement likely depend on good health.  Then consider ways to maintain a healthy retirement, from reducing your risk of falls and staying safe behind the wheel to improving your memory.

Another important aspect of healthy retirement is long term care.  Consider your options now – including type of long term care, as well as how to pay for it – to help prevent hasty decisions later. “

A new population of seniors and those nearing senior status are looking for some type of financial support to maintain their quality of life and pay for eldercare during their final years of life.  The need for some form of long term care will happen to 3 out of every 5 people.  Paying for this care can be devastating for those who are not prepared.

Planning for the final years of life by dovetailing government programs, with your assets and other funding sources is a vital, yet complicated necessity.  The National Care Planning Council‘s “Life Resource Planning System” relieves some of this burden by providing recommendations pertaining to any or all of the items below that may be important to your living out the rest of your life in dignity.

  • Identify government income and care support programs
  • Protect and preserve assets
  • Facilitate favorable outcomes for health, medical issues and final preparations
  • Maximize family and community support
  • Find the right living arrangements

Healthy aging – physically, mentally and financially – is a definite “can do” with all the resources available to seniors and a little planning for the future.  And, of course, consult an elder law attorney.  The Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.
   Every day of every week, Weekly Law is there for you.

How To Talk To Your Elderly Parents About In-Home Care

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

The fear of losing independence seems to be one of the top concerns for the elderly. It’s hard to accept the fact that they need help performing simple tasks they have been able to do the majority of their lives. When their children or family tries to suggest in-home care, a whole host of emotions can surface and usually results in an awkward or even heated situation.

If in-home care is a necessity for your elderly family member, there are ways to avoid an argument. Below is advice on how to bring up the topic of in-home care with elderly family members. Hopefully these tips will help you and your family to painlessly resolve the touchy subject. « Read the rest of this entry »

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