Aging Parents, Caregivers: Starting the Dialogue

Health Minute

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People are living longer and many baby boomers are now faced with aging parents and the many issues involved with that.

Care for our aging population is a complex topic. In this issue we will discuss some of the common topics our aging parents face and share with you some links to more information.

Medications for Older Adults

Older people often take more medications simply because they have more diseases or health problems. It is important to learn about the medicines you are taking. Talk to your doctor and ask a lot of questions. Clarify what medications you are taking and how often you need them and how much you should take.

The National Institute of Aging suggests taping a list of medications to a kitchen cabinet and putting another in your wallet. They also suggest using a pillbox with a week’s worth of pill to help not only organize medications but as a reminder if you’ve taken them. When you talk to your doctor about your medicines, be sure to include any vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. And, do not discontinue a medication until you have discussed it with your doctor.

The NIA suggests some questions you should ask your doctor:

  1. What is the name of the medicine, and why am I taking it?
  2. What medical condition does this medicine treat?
  3. How many times a day and how much medicine should I take? For how long?
  4. How long will it take to work?
  5. What should I do if I miss a dose?
  6. Are there any side effects? When should I call you if I am having side effects?
  7. Can I safely mix this medicine with the remedies, vitamins, and OTC drugs I am taking?

Be quick to ask for larger print on your pill bottles and easy open caps should you need them. Learn more and a print booklet about older adults and medications.

Depression

Persistent depression that interferes significantly with normal daily function is not a normal part of aging. Emotional experiences of sadness, grief, response to loss, and temporary “blue” moods are normal.

The Centers for Disease Control remind that older adults are at increased risk of depression. About 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer) or whose function becomes limited. The CDC also says depression often goes misdiagnosed or undertreated because health care providers consider it part of aging.

Depression can and should be treated when it occurs at the same time as other medical illnesses. Untreated depression can delay recovery or worsen the outcome of other illnesses. Learn more Off Site Icon.

Driving

According to the National Institute of Health, in 2009, there were 33 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. But the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases with age.

Declines in vision and the ability to reason and remember due to age, as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults' driving abilities.

The Center for Disease Control offers older adults these steps to stay safe on the road:

  • Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility
  • Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines – both prescription and over-the counter– to reduce side effects and interactions
  • Having eyes checked at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Driving during daylight and in good weather
  • Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.  
  • Planning your route before you drive
  • Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front of you
  • Avoiding distractions in your car, such as a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting and eating.
  • Considering alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit

Learn more about older drivers Off Site Icon.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.