By AmeriCare, November 16, 2010
It’s unfortunate how special occasions, such as the Thanksgiving holiday, can become sources of sadness for some senior citizens. A time that once brought such joy and family merriment now reminds them of mortality and fading memories. And it’s difficult, with all of the stress and work related to hosting a holiday gathering, to also cater to aging parents, making sure they feel involved and appreciated.
Well, it doesn’t have to be. These occasions are far too few, and precious, for anyone to feel left out. We should make the most of these times by creating a place where warm, smiling faces abound. Where we refuel our tanks with love and laughter. Especially when you consider that the seniors of the group are the ones that created these traditions that we now follow and enjoy. Their legacy should be honored with a celebration that they feel part of and will appreciate, if not always remember.
Here are some simple tips on how to help seniors put aside the holiday blues and participate in your Thanksgiving festivities.
1. Honor their traditions. We all grow up into independent adults with our own families and our own way of doing things. Along the way, we may alter certain traditions to express our own ideas on how to make the holidays special. Take the time to reflect back on the Thanksgivings from your childhood and make a point to incorporate some important aspect of these occasions into your celebration. Call attention to it, make sure everyone understands, and appreciates, that this is a tradition that was introduced by your parents and has always made Thanksgiving special for you. Try and find a tradition, even if it’s as simple as a recipe, that has been passed down multiple generations and encourage the seniors to reminisce on their own early experiences with this particular tradition.
2. Give them a responsibility. We often feel that the best way to honor the elderly is by doing everything for them. This can result in the person being isolated to the corner of a room and feeling ignored. So, involve them. Put them to work!
If your mother likes to cook, have her teach the grandkids how to make cookies, ask her to snap green beans, wash cranberries, or, if she’s capable of more complicated tasks, make biscuits or a home made pie. If gardening is her thing, ask her to arrange flowers for the centerpiece.
If Dad was always happy working in the yard, don’t shy from asking to him to take the grandkids out to play in piled leaves. Or encourage him to read a story or, better yet, tell one from his childhood.
3. Share pictures. Take a fun ride down memory lane. Break out the photo albums and ask your parents to narrate the pictures to the grandkids. Replace the photos in your regular picture frames with ones from previous holidays. Create a slide show for the family to watch. Or get a custom puzzle created using a photo that will be special to a senior parent. Make it a surprise: it could be a picture from their wedding or of a grandchild they have yet to meet. Have the whole family work together to finish the puzzle and reveal the picture.
4. Commemorate the menu. Make a nice menu for your Thanksgiving feast to commemorate each year’s meal. Print the menu out on nice paper and a give it a fun and creative design – some stencil, or glitter, or decoratively torn edges. Put the menu with each place setting; include appetizers, main courses, side dishes and desserts. You can even add drink pairings for each course. Assign credit to the people responsible for special recipes that have been passed down from your parents, or generations before them. This menu can share a sweet piece of family heritage and show how the same dishes have been enjoyed for generations. Save a menu from each year as a keepsake.
5. Have them share a memento. Older generations have wonderful, rich stories to share; a whole lifetime’s worth. Ask them to bring a memento from their past to each year’s Thanksgiving dinner and share the story that the object represents. These could be war medals, pieces of jewelry, old newspaper clippings, a book, or an old record cover. Honor their revered place at the table, and position in the family, by dedicating a moment to them and their cherished memories.
The Thanksgiving holiday is one the whole family should enjoy, especially our aging parents who are responsible for all the love in the house. Take the time to make sure they remain an important part of these precious occasions.
We’d love to hear how you honor your parents on Thanksgiving Day. Please post a comment and share your own story or idea.
By , January 31, 2010
As people age, the likelihood of taking medicines increases; studies show that the more medicines people take, the more likely they are to be taking a medicine they may not need. It is, therefore, important to take an active role in understanding what is being prescribed for you. In order to better manage chronic conditions, reduce the chance of harmful drug interactions and get the best value for your money, keep in mind that you are part of a team—along with your doctors and other health care professionals—working to make good health care decisions.
To start with, it is important that you keep good track of all the medicines you are taking; this will also help to reduce your risk of harmful drug interactions. Make your own list of medicines by keeping a medicine record. Update your medicine record whenever you start on a new medicine or when you are no longer taking a medicine.
Include the following in your medicine record:
• Name of medicine
• What it is for
• Name of doctor who prescribed it
• How and when to take
• How much to take (dosage)
• Color/shape of medicine
• Any side effects or warnings
You can also take advantage of medication tracker software on your personal computer.
See http://www.consumerreports.org/health/medication-tracker/index.htm for help organizing and tracking your medicines, as well as other information to share with your doctor.
Talking to Your Doctor
It is important to get into the habit of asking your doctor questions about your medicines each time you receive a new prescription. If you receive prescriptions from more than one doctor, always take your medicine record with you and let your doctor know which medicines you are currently taking.
Questions to Ask About Your Medicines:
• Why do I take this prescription? Is it for long- or short-term use?
• How do I take this medicine (how often, with/without food, etc.)?
• What are its side effects? What should I do if they occur?
• Can I substitute a non-drug alternative or a generic?
• Does it duplicate any of the other prescriptions I am taking?
• What should I do if I miss a dose?
• If I cut a pill in half, will it be ineffective?
• Does this drug interact with any of the other prescriptions I take?
• How important is this prescription given my finances and overall health?
• Does my health or age make this drug unsafe for me?
Don’t Forget to Mention. . .
• Any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you are currently taking such as pain relievers, antacids and laxatives; be sure to include any herbal, vitamin or dietary supplements as well.
• Any research you have done.
Go to http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org to download simple reports featuring comparisons of drugs by medical condition or drug class.
Keeping Up with Your Medicines
• Keep medicines in plain sight in a cool, dry place like a kitchen counter or desktop.
• Do not keep your medicines in the refrigerator, unless told to do so by your doctor, pharmacist or the instructions on your medicine bottle.
• Do not keep your medicines in a bathroom where they can become damaged and less effective from shower steam or moisture.
• Set timers and reminders to take your medicines, if needed. Program clocks for when you are at home, and cell phones and watches when you are traveling.
• When flying, carry your medicines with you; do not pack them in your checked luggage. Check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the most current information about traveling with medicines at http://www.tsa.gov or 1.866.289.9673.
• Avoid having to make last minute refills. Mark your calendar in advance or look into a mail-order pharmacy, which can be less expensive.
The best way to keep up with your medicines is to keep your medicine record and bottles within easy reach.
Overcoming Some Medicine Hurdles
Sometimes people avoid taking prescribed medicines. If you are one of these people, ask yourself if any of the following apply to you:
I have trouble affording it — If a medicine is expensive, you may decide not to get the prescription filled. Talk to your doctor about the cost of a drug to see if there are less expensive generic medicines.
I don’t feel any different when taking the drug, or, my symptoms have gone away — Sometimes it is hard to tell when a medicine is working; many medicines work as a “preventative” by preventing your symptoms or conditions from getting worse. Understanding which medicines work to prevent your symptoms from getting worse will help in following your drug routine.
My symptoms are worsening, or, I’m having side effects — Due to changes in your body as you age, prescriptions you have taken for years may begin to affect you differently; signs of memory loss, irritability or loss of coordination can be due to drug interactions rather than medical conditions. It is important to record any change in symptoms or side effects, and share this information in detail with your doctor immediately. This may result in taking a lower dose, changing when you take the prescription, or taking a different medicine altogether.
My medicines are complicated to take — Especially when managing several medicines, it becomes more difficult to observe all of the rules required for each medicine. Getting organized with your medicine record is the easiest way to get into the habit of taking your medicines successfully.
The most important aspect of your drug routine is that it is manageable.
Getting the Best Value for Your Medicines
Review your needs every year
Evaluate your prescription drug plan and compare it with your needs every year. There can be major changes in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries each year that will affect what benefits are being offered and what drugs are covered (and at what prices).
Look into your medicine choices
Doctors do not know what prescriptions are covered by your insurance company. Ask your insurance company for a copy of your drug plan “formulary” (which is a list of all medicines covered by your insurance company) and bring it to your doctors’ appointments. Together, you can evaluate the choice of medicines that will be most effective.
Consider a generic
“Generics” are copies of brand-name medicines whose patents have expired (expirations occur after the drug has been on the market many years). Because a drug has been on the market for so long, it is proven. Generics are less expensive because the research has already been done and the drug has already been tested by the original manufacturer. Makers of generic drugs are not allowed to copy the exact look of the original brand-name drug so a generic drug may look different than the original brand-name medicine, but all generic drugs must maintain the same chemical make-up as the original.
Consider all of your drug plan’s preferred pharmacies and compare prices. Ask about pharmacy discount cards and senior citizen discounts; ask your insurance company about online or mail-order pharmacies.
Help Paying for Your Medicines
After reviewing ways to save money on your medicines, you may find that you are still having trouble paying for them. Here are some websites that can provide additional assistance:
• Medicare Extra Help Program provides information about the Social Security assistance program and application process for the Medicare Part D Subsidy: www.ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp.
• State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP) provides information about any available state-funded assistance programs for prescription drug costs: www.medicare.gov/spap.asp.
• Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (PAP) provides information about pharmaceutical companies that offer assistance programs for the drugs they manufacture: www.medicare.gov/pap.
There are community experts who can help you evaluate your needs for the best prescription drug plan for you. To find a AAA or SHIP near you, call the Eldercare Locator at 1.800.677.1116 or visit the website at www.eldercare.gov.
AmeriCare home care services provide medication reminders and assistance with transportation to doctor’s visits. Keeping our seniors safe and healthy is our priority. Find an AmeriCare office near you by visiting http://americareinfo.com, or call 1-800-610-2029.
By , January 13, 2010
When an aging family member starts to have problems with their vision, many times that loss can be attributed to glaucoma. It’s important for seniors and their family members to understand the causes and treatments for glaucoma so that the affected senior can live independently for as long as possible.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes loss of sight by damaging a part of the eye called the optic nerve. This nerve sends information from your eyes to your brain. When glaucoma damages your optic nerve, you begin to lose patches of vision, usually side vision (peripheral vision). Over time, glaucoma may also damage straight ahead (central) vision. You may not notice a loss of side vision until you have lost a great deal of your sight. When checking for glaucoma, eye doctors usually look for damage to the optic nerve and any loss of side vision. They may also check your eye pressure.
Glaucoma is often called “the sneak thief of sight.” That’s because people usually do not notice any signs of the disease until they have already lost significant vision. Once lost, vision can’t be restored.
More than 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma. At least half don’t even know they have it.
What are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
There are many types of glaucoma. Often, the cause of high pressure in the eye can help tell the type of glaucoma and the best treatment for it. The most common types include:
Chronic (Open Angle) Glaucoma
This is the most common type. In open angle glaucoma, aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure inside the eye builds up. It usually results from aging of the drainage channel, which doesn’t work as well over time. However, younger people can also get this type of glaucoma.
Normal Tension Glaucoma
This is a form of open angle glaucoma not related to high pressure. People with normal tension glaucoma may be unusually sensitive to normal levels of pressure. Reduced blood supply to the optic nerve may also play a role in normal tension glaucoma.
Acute (Angle Closure) Glaucoma
Less than 10 percent of Caucasians or African-Americans have this form, but for those of Asian and Native American descent, the risks are as high as for open angle glaucoma. Hispanics are midway between these groups. It causes a sudden rise in pressure, requiring immediate, emergency medical care. The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. Occasionally, the condition may be without symptoms; similar to open angle.
Another 10 percent of glaucoma cases come from certain diseases and conditions that damage the eye’s drainage system. These include diabetes, leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, some forms of arthritis, cataracts, eye injuries or inflammation of the eye, steroid drug use and growth of unhealthy blood vessels.
Some surgeries, such as retinal reattachments, increase the chance of getting glaucoma.
Getting more involved in your treatment
Even if surgery or drugs lower pressure in your eye, it’s still possible to lose vision. Therefore, you and your doctor must carefully monitor the disease.
Since you will be visiting your eye doctor regularly, take time and care in choosing a person who you are comfortable with. Your doctor should understand that your questions and concerns are important. A doctor who is willing to work with you, listen to your concerns and provide the best treatment, plays a large part in your success against glaucoma.
You have to help save your sight
You may need medicines every day for the rest of your life. Find support and encouragement from your family, friends and others. Sometimes it helps to talk to people who have experienced the same thing. It can help you to discuss side effects, share ways to remember your medicines and celebrate getting your glaucoma under control.
Unfortunately, there are a few people whose eyesight will continue to get worse, despite doing all the right things to control their glaucoma. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens, but research in this area continues.
The future holds great promise for treating glaucoma. New medicines are being developed. Other treatments may soon become available. In the meantime, take heart in knowing that you’re doing everything possible to treat your glaucoma successfully. The doctor/patient team approach, support from others and promising scientific discoveries will help you look forward to a bright future.
Questions for your eye doctor
You will have many questions as your doctor diagnoses and treats your glaucoma. It’s helpful to keep a list of these questions, especially if they come to mind in between your eye appointments. Write all your questions down and bring the list with you, then discuss them with your doctor. Here are some questions many people have:
• What do these medicines do?
• How much will they cost? Will my insurance help pay for them? (These may be questions for your insurance company, not your doctor.)
• What are the possible side effects of my medicines?
• Can I do anything to lower the chance of side effects or reduce the effects?
• What should I do if I miss a dose?
• Will I need surgery? What are the benefits and drawbacks of laser surgery? Of glaucoma surgery?
• What will my vision be like after surgery?
• How long will recovery take? How will I need to change my usual activities?
• Will I be able to drive? Go to work?
If you or an aging loved one is suffering from vision loss, get it checked out immediately. AmeriCare home care services can assist seniors with errands, grocery shopping, light housekeeping and more. Let an AmeriCare home care staff member keep you or your loved one safe while being treated for glaucoma or any other vision impairment. Find an AmeriCare office near you by visiting http://americareinfo.com, or call 1-800-610-2029.