Depression is a condition that affects many people of all ages around the world. Over the years, I have experienced within our community just how difficult and debilitating it can be for some of our elderly in the winter months. Winter SADness…or Seasonal Affect Disorder is not just a bad or sad mood. It is a real health issue and as with any type of depression, it is important to be aware and seek medical intervention when necessary. The National Institute of Mental Health gives this explanation and as well as symptoms and treatments:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.
Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:
- Having low energy
- Weight gain
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)
Treatments and Therapies:
There are four major types of treatment for SAD:
- Light therapy
- Vitamin D
These treatments may be used alone or in combination. Along with the difficulties that a chronic illness can bring, seniors are also likely to experiences losses in the social networks, which can contribute to the formation of clinical depression. Not everyone who experiences Seasonal Affect Disorder is clinically depressed, but SAD can increase the effects of those who do live with chronic depression. Families and caregivers should be on the lookout for indicators of SAD in their older loved ones during the winter months.
It is important to talk with your loved ones if you have concerns about their mental health and seek medical attention when necessary. Be supportive, be loving and help them remain calm as they cope.
One of the top reasons that we get calls or inquiries about assisted living is when families have an elderly loved one who has had a fall. Falls among seniors are unfortunately very common. It was recently reported in the news that falls are the number one causes of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among people aged 65 and older. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Now, falls can still occur in any environment but knowing what to watch for and having others looking out for you can help avoid potential falls.
Here are some key factors from the National Council on Aging to consider regarding falls:
- Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
- Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
- Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
- Chronic conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
Be aware of these factors and keep the dialogue open with your loved ones regarding falls and the issues related to them. Ask questions and be proactive if you notice changes in health and/or behavior.
As our parents age, we often become concerned that they aren’t able to manage simple things, like remembering to take their medications. Sometimes remembering to take medications is especially hard if our loved one has chronic health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure and takes several medications each day. What can we do when we are concerned that our parents are forgetting to take their medications?
An easy first step is a trip to the physician to make sure that the medications our parents have are the ones they need to take. When going with our parents to see their physician, be sure to take all the medications in their original prescription container for review by the physician. Ask the physician if all the medications are necessary and also if it’s possible to schedule them to be taken no more than twice per day. Simplifying how many times each day medications have to be taken will help streamline the process.
After the medications are reviewed and streamlined as much as possible, invest in a medication organizer. These are inexpensive and available at most drug stores. Fill the organizer with the medications for the appropriate time of day and familiarize your parents with how to use them. Using the organizer shows at a glance whether medications have been taken and make keeping up with the correct dose much easier. When looking for an organizer, make sure to obtain one that your parents can easily open and close and make sure that the dose times correspond to the dose times on the prescriptions. For the first few days using the organizer, a reminder phone call may also be helpful.
If medication organizers, phone call reminders and other steps have failed, it may be time to consider an assisted living community. Assisted living communities’ help individuals remember to take their medications at the time and correct dose ordered by their physician. They also monitor individuals for any problems with medications and notify the physician and family if there is a problem. This is especially important if the individual has chronic health problems.
For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!
Does it seem like everyone you know is taking medication for something? Since 1 in 5 Americans age 45 and older have some type of chronic medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, chances are you have friends who are on long term medication. Perhaps you are also taking a daily medication for a chronic medical condition.
Unfortunately, this trend gets worse as we get older. 76% of people over age 60 in the United States take at least 2 medications daily. 37% take 5 or more medications daily. It’s easy to slip into this when we are often seen to specialist for specific health problems. Before we know it, we may be seeing several specialists in addition to our primary care physician. How do we know when we are taking too many medications?
All medications have side effects. Sometimes a medication that is given to help a specific medical problem can make us have side effects that we don’t recognize as being caused by the medication. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to have side effects, especially if there are interactions between the medications you take.
One way to address this is to do a “Medication Checkup” with your primary care physician. Make an appointment for this and bring ALL the medications you take including those which are only as needed and any over the counter medications, vitamins or supplements. You may find you are taking a medication you no longer need, or that switching to a different medication for a chronic medical condition can reduce or eliminate any side effects.
Another way to help prevent side effects caused by medication interaction is to make sure you use only one pharmacy. Your pharmacist should have a complete list of all medications as well as over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Ask your pharmacist before starting a new over the counter medication to make sure it doesn’t interact with the prescription medications you are currently taking.
Keep an up to date list of all prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements and make sure you update the list with any change. Double check with your primary care provider at each visit to make sure their list is up to date as well.
When bothered by a new problem like insomnia, consider a non-drug approach to manage the problem. Getting some exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime, sticking to a schedule for going to bed each night, limiting caffeine in the evening and limiting electronic screens just before bed can be a non-medication way to help improve sleep.
It is important that you be able to identify each medication that you take and understand what the medication is for. This can be difficult when our pharmacy may substitute different manufacturers with our refills in an effort to get the best price possible with generic versions of medications. Another challenge is if the same medication is taken at different times each day. Here are some simple tips to help identify your medications:
- Let your physician know if you are having trouble identifying your medications. It is important to discuss this with your physician and see if he can identify ways to help you.
- When getting prescriptions filled at the pharmacy, take advantage of the counseling service offered by the pharmacist so you can identify the medication and get information about how to take it and any side effects to watch for.
- Tell you pharmacist you are having trouble identifying your medications and ask if they can add color codes to the labels to help identify your medications.
- Consider using a list of medications by time of dose. This helps us remember especially if we are taking the same medication more than one time of day.
- Ask your physician for a complete list of all your medications and detailed directions about how you are to take them.
- Consider using a pill organizer which is refilled weekly to help with identifying medications. Use the list of all medications and detailed directions to refill the pill organizer each week.
Our healthcare providers prescribe medications to help manage our health. It is important that we take the medication as prescribed in order for the medication to be most effective and to minimize side effects.
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Not taking medications correctly affects 30%-60% of all senior adults. Reasons for non-compliance can include finances, insurance not covering medications, confusion over directionsm, multiple doctors prescribing medications, and memory loss. Problems caused by medication non-compliance include hospitalization due to worsening medical problems, falls, fractures, or overdose.
Ways to Prevent Medication Non-Compliance:
- Take a list of all medications to the doctor, each vist.
- Have the doctor review the list before prescribing new meds.
- Use the same pharmacy for all prescriptions.
- Use medication set up systems or organizers
- Have a friend or relative set up medications
- Call 911 immediately if too much of any one medication is taken