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Ask doctors, pharmacists for medication details

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear readers:

This week’s column continues our discussion of medication and older adults. The question is: What can we do to reduce chances of medication errors and complications?

We know that as we age, we take more medicine. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of more than 17,000 older adults found that of the 89 percent taking prescription drugs in the past year, nearly half (46 percent) take five or more; more than half (54 percent) have more than one doctor who prescribes medicine; and about one-third (35 percent) use more than one pharmacy.

There’s more: Among those with at least three chronic conditions, nearly 75 percent take five or more medications regularly. And 40 percent told researchers they had not taken all of their prescribed drugs because of costs. They also stopped taking their medications because they felt the drugs were not helping them or they didn’t think they needed them.
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Ensuring drug safety, effectiveness with multiple medications

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: My 84-year-old father is the primary care provider for my mother, who is 82. He is very much in charge. With the many prescription drugs she is taking, I am concerned about the combinations and dosages. I would like to give him some advice in a gentle way. Can you help?

– L.J.

Dear L.J.:

You have every right to be concerned.

Let’s start with some facts about older adults and medications. These are cited in the recent publication by the Gerontological Society of America titled “Acetaminophen and the Implications for Patient Care.”
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Scams (part 2)

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers,

This week’s column is a continuation of our discussion of financial scams perpetrated on older adults.  The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit service and advocacy organization for older persons, recently published the top 10 financial scams.

Perpetrators consider these scams as low-risk crimes because they are under reported and can be difficult to prosecute.

  1. Medicare frauds.  In these cases the scam artists pose as Medicare representatives and get personal information from the individual.  They often provide bogus services at makeshift mobile clinics and then use the information to bill Medicare and keep the money.
  2. Read more »

Scams (part 1)

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question. Recently some home-repair men were in my neighborhood and told me they would inspect my roof free of charge.  Since the roof is old, I thought the check-up was a good idea.  They found a problem and proceeded to repair it– I thought.  In our last rain storm, I was shocked when water dripped into my dining room.  I had to hire another repair man who told me the tiles had just been rearranged.  I am 82 years old and feel I was taken advantage of because of my age and perhaps the age of my house.  What can be done about this?  A.P.

Dear A.P.:

Unfortunately you have been the object of what is called “home-repair swindle,” a term used by Douglas P. Shadel and John T.  Shadel was a fraud investigator for ten years with the Washington office of the State Attorney General.  His co-author John T. was an expert on scams, spending a decade as one of the most notorious con artists in telemarketing fraud.
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Dr. Walter Boortz

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear readers,

I recently attended the Positive Aging Conference in Los Angeles sponsored by the Fielding Graduate University.  Among the many speakers, one in particular grabbed my attention.  That was Dr. Walter Boortz, Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanford School of Medicine and a distinguished scientist on aging and longevity. Much of his research has focused on the importance of physical exercise in promoting robust aging.

Dr. Boortz is a marathon runner, running about 16 miles a week and completing  41 marathons including Boston and New York.  He is 81 years old.

During a conference break, I found Dr. Boortz sitting next to a table of books he has authored.     I had the opportunity to ask him, “What is your current message?  He replied, “We are not marionettes with someone else pulling the strings.  We have to pull them.”  That was followed by “Aging is a black hole, that is until we figure out how it makes money.” Read more »

Hoarding (part 2)

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear readers,

This week’s column is a continuation of our discussion about hoarding.  The father of M.E. is a hoarder which has created great stress for her.  The situation has gotten worse since his wife died.  She asks what to do?  Last week we discussed what “not” to do.  This week we’ll consider “what to do.”

Hoarding behavior is more prevalent than we think.  A 2008 study by Johns Hopkins University scientists estimated that nearly four per cent of the population is hoarders
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Hoarding (part 1)

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Q.  I just finished reading your column on “stuff” that discusses disposing of family items.  The last sentence caught my attention in that the children mentioned in the column wanted to avoid discussing this subject.  In my family, it is not the children, but my 84-year old father.  My dad is a hoarder. Since my mom passed away the problem has gotten worse.  He refuses to part with anything and rebuffs any attempt for a meaningful conversation.  The situation is a constant strain on our relationship and a source of never ending stress for me.  Can you address the subject from the parent’s perspective?  It’s a heavy burden for me.  M.E.

Dear M.E.

The burden is heavy with frustration.

Most of us have collected things – baseball cards, stamps, china tea cups or beer steins.  And it is common and sometimes easier for us to save rather than throw away things.  This is not a problem.

It becomes a problem when the habis of keeping or collecting useless things fill up a room or even a house.  Hoarders collect hundreds and even thousands of things and refuse to part with them despite family protests.  It becomes worse when it leads to health and fire hazards.
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Encore Summit

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers,

I recently attended an extraordinary “age event.”   It was entitled “Encore 2011: Shaping the Future of the Encore Movement,” sponsored by Civic Ventures, a San Francisco think tank on boomers, work and social purpose held in Sausalito.

Part of the meeting was a celebration of the Purpose Prize winners, an award given to five individuals 60 and older who have made significant contributions to resolve a societal problem.  The winners bring their vision, talent and passion to make our world a better place.  Their mission is their second career.  Civic Ventures calls it their Encore Career – a combination of purpose, passion and a paycheck.  The event was sponsored by Atlantic Philanthropies, the John Templeton Foundation and AARP with each Purpose Prize winner receiving $100,000.
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Getting Rid of Stuff part 2

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear readers:

In the last column, N.S. asked about what to consider in passing her possessions to her children.  She also was concerned that her children would rather avoid the conversation.  Here is our continuing discussion.

Distributing possessions does not conjure up thoughts of research.  Yet this has emerged as an area of exploration in social science.  David J. Ekerdt, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas Laurence and colleagues have conducted research and published on the subject based on interviews with over 100 households that have downsized.
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Losing Height

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question:  I can no longer reach the top shelf in my kitchen.  Clearly I am getting shorter.  At 83, I am reluctant to stand on a stepstool and therefore have to wait for my son to help me move dishes to a lower shelf.  Being an impatient woman, that annoys me.   Why am I getting shorter and is there anything I can do about it?   M.H.

Dear M.H.

You made a good decision to avoid the stepstool.  Falls in the eighth and ninth decade of life can have serious consequences.

So why are you – and most people in their 70s and 80s – losing height?  Like it or not, it is part of normal aging.
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