Epidemic Proportions

Recently I was helping a young lady prepare an answer for a pageant onstage question.  The question was, “What is a news story that you are following and what is your opinion on the matter?”  After digging into the headlines, I landed on a topic that for me hit a little close to home.  The topic…opioid addiction.  I have typed this out and backspaced and stared at the words more times than I care to admit.  Years ago, I went to great lengths to make sure that absolutely no one knew that opioid addiction was a subject I knew anything about.  But sadly, I know all too well.  Not on a personal level.   But I guess observing the effects of addiction ravage your father’s body and mind are a bit personal.  My Dad died in 2001 at the age of 56 years old.  Now that I am 42 years old…I realize just how young he was when we lost him.  His official cause of death was renal carcinoma (kidney cancer).  But I know that his life was cut short due in part to the large amount of prescription pain killers he took every day.  He was an addict and he knew it.  We all knew it and it wreaked havoc on our lives.  Opioid addiction is an epidemic that affects many different age groups and the elderly are not immune to this problem.

Agingcare.com reports that 40 percent of the prescription drugs sold in the United States are used by the elderly, often for problems such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, as many as 17 percent of adults age 60 and over abuse prescription drugs. Narcotic painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers are the most commonly abused medication types.  When drugs come from a doctor’s prescription pad, misuse is harder to identify. We assume that pharmaceutical drugs are only used for treating legitimate medical conditions, and this is typically how seniors begin using these drugs. Doctors often prescribe older patients medications to help them cope with age-related physical and mental changes, such as depression, limited or painful mobility, and shorter, more irregular sleep cycles. Over time, seniors may develop a tolerance to a drug, so achieving the same “coping” effect requires larger and/or more frequent doses. The result is an inadvertent addiction to a specific medication.

Questions to Ask if You Suspect Prescription Misuse or Abuse

  • How much are they taking? If Mom used to take one or two pills a day, but now she is taking four or six, that’s a red flag. Looking at the dosing instructions on the pill bottle or container can give you a clue whether they are abiding by the prescriber’s instructions.
  • Has their behavior or mood changed? Are they argumentative, sullen, withdrawn, secretive or anxious?
  • Are they giving excuses as to why they need their medication?
  • Do they ever express remorse or concern about taking their medicine?
  • Do they have a “purse supply” or “pocket supply” in case of an emergency?
  • Have they recently changed doctors or drug stores?
  • Have they received the same prescription from two or more physicians or pharmacists at approximately the same time?
  • Do they become annoyed or uncomfortable when others talk about their use of medications?
  • Do they ever sneak or hide their meds?

 

How to Help a Loved One Manage Their Prescriptions Responsibly

  • Stay as connected as you can and make sure you know what medications your loved one is taking and why.
  • Check that they are following the prescribed dosage(s).
  • Encourage them to use painkillers and sedatives only when necessary and to taper off as soon as they can.
  • Look for alternative treatments. If a senior has an ongoing problem with pain, for example, a pain management specialist may be able to suggest strategies for controlling it without drugs.
  • Remind them to always avoid alcohol when taking painkillers or sedatives.
  • Encourage them to bring all their medications to their doctor when they go for their annual checkups, so the physician has an up-to-date record of exactly what they are taking.

If you suspect your loved one may be misusing or abusing their medications, consult with their prescribing physician to devise a solution. It may be useful to inquire about psychological tests to check for mood or behavior disorders and research treatment facilities that specialize in programs specifically for seniors. Many insurance plans cover stays at in-patient addiction centers.  It is difficult to face these problems, but the repercussions of sticking your head in the sand is worse for them and you.  Addiction is not something that happens only to the addict.  It affects the entire family.  Don’t just try to sweep problems under the carpet.

Need help???  Get help!!

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA’s) (National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357),(also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Home of the Free

This week we will celebrate and honor our Veterans.  Veterans Day 2017 will be on Saturday, November 11th, 2017 and designated as a Federal Holiday on Friday, November 10th, 2017.   As the daughter, granddaughter and sister of Army men, this topic is close to my heart.  I was reading up on the observance and read that there is even a Veterans Day Poster contest.  This year’s poster features the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial located at the National Mall in Washington D.C. The inscribed quote on the poster is from Abraham Lincoln and is also the VA motto which reads “To care for him who shall have born the battle.”  This motto made me proud of the many Veterans that we have had the opportunity to care for in our assisted living communities.  In a Veterans Day Proclamation from 2001, Former President George W. Bush said, “Throughout the course of American history, courageous men and women have taken up arms to secure, defend, and maintain these core principles upon which our Nation’s freedoms depend.”  It is because of this bravery that we enjoy those freedoms.

We pause and say thank you and recognize the brave and selfless men and women that have served this great nation.  We also want to remind our Veterans that there is a very helpful resource available to many of them based on eligibility that can help pay for the cost of assisted living.  Per veteranaid.org, hundreds of thousands are eligible for this little-known VA benefit, including spouses of veterans. These funds can be used for assisted living at many facilities.  To learn more you can contact your local Veterans Affairs Office or check out www.benefits.va.gov

Learn more about your local Great Oaks Management Property and VA Benefits by calling us today at 1-888-258-8082.

 

The Not So Young and Stress Less

I think that the hardest part of being a caregiver is dealing with the guilt. There is never enough time in the day. You bought the wrong kind of soap, stamps or razors or whatever it is…you just can’t catch a break. I think that life in general can sometimes be structured to wear us down. We think we are so smart being so connected and so able to communicate and work and multi-task.  Sometimes we just need to stop, push back and say…no.  I am the world’s WORST at this.  I don’t want to let anyone down.  In my mind…my goal is to help everyone.  But if I (or you) don’t take time to rest then how can we be good for anyone?  So here are some tips to de-program and reduce caregiver stress.

caregiver-stress

  • Ask for help. You know the help you have been providing.  But write down what that help entails.  No one person can do it alone.  It may even be time to consider the move to an assisted living.  Asking for help doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are not going to be part of the team.  It just means you care enough to reach out.
  • Realize your limitations. It’s impossible to be all things to all people.  Sometimes our mindset that “only we can provide the help” is actually damaging for our loved ones.  You may be thinking that you are helping someone by enabling them to stay alone…when in actuality they may do better in a community setting and your “help” may be depriving them of a better situation. Meanwhile it may also be running you ragged!
  • Take time for you. If you think that only taking your loved ones to their doctor visits and cancelling your checkups is going to serve you well…think again. You need time to recharge your batteries and make sure that you are healthy both mentally and physically. Many caregivers suffer serious health issues while taking care of others. Be sure to take care of you!
  • Talk it out. Phone a friend.. Have dinner with your spouse or seek the counsel of a peer going through the same situation. You can even find support groups for caregivers.  Your stress is not in your head!  Not to mention that it is not good to keep it all inside.  Having a friendly chat can prove therapeutic and can also be a way to give and get advice for those sharing similar experiences.

caregiver-timeout