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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Too Many Medications? More Aging Parent Health Problems?

Check out this site about polypharmacy.

Polypharmacy is a serious problem for many seniors. Here on AsOurParentsAge I’ve written multiple posts (links to a few at the bottom of this page) about the medications that our aging parents take for various chronic conditions. I’ve wondered, after considerable experience with my husband’s and my parents, why they have so many, and more importantly, why their physicians do not coordinate the medications. It seems like it would be prudent for primary care physicians to review a patient’s medications, perhaps once a year, comparing and contrasting the drugs with patient experiences and outcomes.

My musings led me to a terrific blog posting by Joanne Kenen, “Pill Popping–Or Pill Stopping? Polypharmacy’s Impact on Older Patients.” Kenen, a health policy writer, posted her December 11, 2010, piece on the Altarum Institute blog — Altarum focuses on improving health care delivery. She writes about a study, Feasibility Study of a Systematic Approach for Discontinuation of Multiple Medications (abstract), published in the October 11, 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine. The journal article is not free, but Kenen’s blog post provides a comprehensive, almost perfect and easy-to-understand summary of the research, and she has even communicated with the researcher. If you have aging parents who are on multiple medications, I strongly recommend that you read these two articles, though you may need to read the journal article at a hospital library.

The study, undertaken by Doran Garfinkel, MD, set out to discover what might happen if seniors’ medications were re-evaluated and where possible, discontinued. Continue reading