The Aging Parent-Multiple Medication Conundrum

pillsThe intersection of elderly parents and multiple medications continues to be a conundrum for many adult children. It certainly is for my family! Two recent Washington Post articles about medication issues may be useful for the children or aging adults to read and then share with one another.

In Older Patients Sometimes Need to Get Off of Their Meds, but It Can Be a Struggle, physician Ravi Parikh writes about evaluating medications with the aim of de-prescribing some of the medicines that people take. He describes the struggles that can arise when patients hesitate to go off medications that they have been taking for years, because their sense is that their medications are working. People are reluctant to associate physical problems with medications that they already take, so when new symptoms arise, many people seek a prescription for that problem and are less inclined to examine whether or not the new problem might be caused by medications they already take.

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How Many Inhalers Have You Thrown Away? New Recycling Program

Two types of GlaxoSmithKline inhalers

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) just announced a recycling program for its inhalers.

Quite a few people, including many of us, our elder parents, and our children, use inhaled medication, often over many years. As a result asthma sufferers do not have to think much about their potential breathing difficulties. Until now as each person finished an inhaler, it went into the trash — the little metal pressurized aerosol canister as well as the plastic sheath.

Given the number of people nationwide (and I am not even considering worldwide consumption), these discarded inhalers must add up to massive piles of plastic mouthpieces and metal canisters filled with medication residue in landfills.

Not anymore!

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Get Rid of Old Meds

Visit the event website.

If you have old and unused medications stashed around your house — or if your elder parents have them — make a note of the 2012 Take-Back Initiative. It’s sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and coming right up on April 28th (that’s this Saturday). Participants can safely get rid of pills and bottles that are sitting around in medicine chests and kitchen cabinets.

Use this handy site locator to find a location near your home. Note that each site will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Download a poster about the event.

Interesting Statistics and Facts
About Other Take Back Events

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Aging Parents: Chronic Disease Complications on Vacation

A family picture at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, looking at the special “treehouse” architecture that is a part of the Golisano Children’s Hospital.

What to do when an aging parent becomes ill on a family vacation? With little knowledge about the quality of care in an away-from-home location, even in a place visited for years, double anxiety is the name of the game if a loved-one is taken to the hospital.

We faced this issue last weekend when, just after breakfast as we were leaving for home, my dad had difficulty standing. Although he recovered fairly quickly, a trip to a hospital emergency room was in order. In this case we asked ourselves, how can we judge the knowledge of the caregivers and be certain he receives the best care? That’s a tall order.

After receiving a day of assiduous and personalized attention at the small, local hospital, The River Hospital (click to see the amazing St. Lawrence River view from the emergency waiting room below), an ambulance transported Dad 90 miles south to Upstate Medical University Hospital, a teaching hospital in Syracuse, New York. River Hospital staff made all of the arrangements, ensuring an easy and smooth transfer, so when he reached Syracuse, the ambulance crew carried him right up to an assigned hospital room on the 8th floor — an extraordinary convenience in itself.

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Communication is Critical in Aging Adult Health Care

A friend’s 85-year-old mother had surgery requiring two different types of cardiologists. Besides the primary care physician (PCP), her parent was seeing the two heart physicians and two additional specialists for other reasons. When my friend, on a visit to the primary care physician with her mom, asked a question about dizziness and the possibility that one of the cardiologist’s medications was interacting with one of the primary care doctor’s medications, confusion arose because a report from the specialist’s care and prescriptions had not yet been sent to the PCP’s office. No communication occurred between the specialist and the primary care doctor.

Recently a January 10, 2011 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Referral and Consultation Communication Between Primary Care and Specialist Physicians (abstract), described a study that addresses the effectiveness of communication between physicians. The article is not freely available. The objective of the research was to examine “… PCP’s and specialists’perceptions of communication regarding referrals and consultations” because interaction appears to be inconsistent. Moreover, the researchers surmised that better communication can lower, at least somewhat, medical care costs.

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Many Seniors Don’t Know About Medicare Extra Help Subsidy

According to a January 4, 2011 Kaiser Health News (KHN) article, many American seniors who qualify for a Medicare Part D subsidy that reduces prescription costs have not signed up. The article, 2 Million Medicare Beneficiaries Missing Out On Discounted Drug Coverage, explains that the program, called Extra Help, lowers medication costs and reduces money spent in Part D doughnut hole.

This is a significant program that the children of senior parents should learn about, especially if their parents’ incomes are limited. A Kaiser Family Foundation research study estimates that nearly 2.3 million people qualify but have not signed up for the program, despite a huge amount of publicity, direct mail and even ads and video broadcasts (see video below) with Chubby Checker — the rock musician who popularized the twist in 1960. Checker, now age 69 is eligible for Medicare benefits. The KHN article provides more detailed information.

The article describes who is can sign up for the Extra Help benefits: Continue reading