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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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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Aging Parents and Medication Side Effects

Recently my dad, who takes a number of blood pressure and heart medications, began to experience nosebleeds –they seemed to begin out of the blue. Family members and friends kept offering explanations for why the nosebleeds were occurring. Twice, when he had difficulty stopping the bleeding, Dad went to the emergency room at the local hospital.

Potential Side Effects ?

The puzzle was not solved until four months later, when an alert physician looked over Dad’s medication list and pointed out that one of his blood pressure medications was known to interact with another medication, potentially causing nosebleeds. The doctor switched Dad’s medication, and the nosebleeds stopped. Looking back, we recognized that the nosebleeds began after his physician adjusted some of his prescriptions.

A good starting place to learn about medications is Talk to Your Doctor, a website featuring prescription information and consumer education on pharmacy issues. Continue reading