Feb 242018
 

February 2018

A Healthy Age

By Amy Abbott

Blister packs reduce the chance a pharmacist will provide the wrong amount of medicine, and make it difficult for illegal operators to substitute bogus products. With blister packs, there is also a reduction in contamination risk.

From Senior Wire News Service — At dinner last evening, my husband asked me, “Did I take my pills yet?” He pulled his little silver case out of his pocket, and sure enough, he had already taken them. Any senior’s daily dance with medications is only a snapshot of a larger societal issue. We make mistakes, and worse, news reports frequently cite the dreadful track record for medication errors by hospitals, pharmacies, and others in the system.

According to a 2016 article in the journal Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, adverse drug events (ADE) happen during 3.5 million office visits and 1 million emergency department visits annually.

“Preventable medication errors impact more than 7 million patients and cost almost $21 billion annually across all care settings,” reported the authors, “About 30% of hospitalized patients have at least one discrepancy on discharge medicine reconciliation. Medication errors and ADEs are an underreported burden that adversely affects patients, providers, and the economy.”

Enough to make one reach for the jar of leeches the next time you become ill, isn’t it? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes the major causes of errors:

  • Poor communication in a multi-layered system.
  • Ambiguous product names, directions, or use of medical abbreviations not commonly understood.
  • Poor procedures or techniques.
  • Patient misuse because of misunderstanding product use directions.

Across the prescribing chain, mistakes happen – in the initial packaging, repackaging, dispensing, administering, and even in the wrong use by a patient.

A federal agency, known as the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is, according to the FDA, charged with preventing medication errors before a drug’s approval. They also evaluate, monitor, and act on reported medication errors, educating health professionals, and sharing information with those invested in preventing errors.

The bottom line is that errors can happen at any link in the chain – during a pharmaceutical trial before the release of a new medication, or in your bathroom when your partner hands you tonight’s medication.

 

Technology May Be a Game-Changer

Two uses of technology may reduce medications errors and provide designer drugs for individuals. Writing for the American Enterprise Institute’s “AEIdeas,” Roger Bate suggested that improved packaging may reduce errors.

“My criticisms of individual pill distribution is not with the pharmacist. All humans make mistakes, but the U.S. approach treats the patient as largely passive in the whole process.” He continued, “With professional packaging and branding, patients are more likely to see if the medicine is not what they were told it should be by the prescribing physician.”

Bate suggested that blister packs reduce the chance a pharmacist will provide the wrong amount of medicine, and make it difficult for illegal operators to substitute bogus products. With blister packs, there is also a reduction in contamination risk. Bate noted that Amazon recently announced it was jumping into the pharmaceutical pool, selling medicine in the blister packs popular elsewhere in the world.

My question is, will a drone deliver my eye drops? I was reticent to move to mail order, fearing what would happen to the drops on a postal truck in a humid Ohio River Valley summer. Now I will worry that the drone will drop my drops on my roof, necessitating a ladder adventure that surely isn’t good for my health.

Seriously, with the 800-lb gorilla presence of Amazon in our economy, this could be a game-changer. A recent US News report outlined how DNA-specific medication can help doctors treat a patient’s condition based on changes in their genetic make up. The MyCode Community Health Initiative, based at Geisinger Health Systems in Pennsylvania, catalogs the DNA of 150,000 volunteers. If genetic changes are found in conditions associated with a patient’s particular DNA mix, patients are notified.

The source used the example of a 58-year-old Pennsylvania homemaker who had her DNA tested in April 2016. The My Code Community Health Initiative notified her that she was a carrier of a gene that might cause breast and ovarian cancer. The patient had her ovaries removed, and doctors found a golf-ball sized tumor. She had been asymptomatic.

While this illustration is only anecdotal, the point is made that technology offers space-age options that we could not have imagined as children. Designer drugs, made especially for us, can reduce the margin of error, but we still have to take the right pill at the right time.

For further information see http://www.go60.us/health/item/2430-keeping-yourself-safe-from-medical-errors discusses ways to prevent personal medication errors.

 

Amy McVay Abbott is a newly retired healthcare executive who writes about health and wellness issues. Visit her at www.amyabbottwrites.com

http://go60.us/health/item/3182-medication-errors-are-pervasive-what-can-be-done

 

Nov 082017
 

REFLECTIONS November 2017

The Raven Lunatic

 Senior Wire News Service — I rarely, rarely comment on our son’s posts. Okay, I break that rule all the time. Last night our son went to see Apocalyptica in Washington, D.C., so I commented on the picture he posted. Do I know Apocalyptica from a hole in the ground? No, but the venue was beautiful.

When a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore created what would become Facebook in his dorm room, could he have imagined its global reach among all ages? A new study from Visiting Angels (www.visitingangels.com) shared the feelings of some millennials who secretly want to unfriend Mimi and Poppa, who they believe, tend to post embarrassing stuff.

According to the study, here are the top no-nos for Grandma and Grandpa:

  • Posting personal stuff: One in four respondents say grandparents post too much information about their love and social lives. (Got news for you kids, Mee-maw isn’t quite walking to the light yet.) More than one-third said their elders post dirty laundry about family feuds or finances.
  • Rant and rave: One in five believe Gram-Gram goes “emoji crazy” in comments or posts, while 33% of respondents say they don’t like it when their elder relatives get too political or go “holy roller,” posting too much about religion.
  • Tread on personal turf: One in four really hate it when Grandma tries to friend their friends, and 30% really don’t dig Grammy or Grampy posting on their timeline. Half of those surveyed don’t want their grandparents posting on their timeline at all (I get that, and no baby pictures either.) Biggest no-no on personal turf: For pete’s sake, Oma and Opa, don’t comment on appearance, hair, weight, or clothing. (That probably leaves out comments about the Significant Other as well, I’m guessing.)

Surprise, Kiddos, We’re Not Going Anywhere!

In 2017, there are 2.01billion Facebook monthly users worldwide. While much public perception focuses on the social media activity of millennials, don’t sell Nana short. Data from Pew Research tells a different story. Among online adults, the percentage of those who use Facebook in the 50-64 age group is 63% and 56% above age 65 in the most recent statistics available.

Marketers should not ignore us. We baby boomers are here to stay and still make an economic impact.

Like many other people my age, I first went on Facebook to monitor our son. At the time, he was a freshman in college, moving 1,100 miles from home. He’s not the type to call or text daily (or sometimes even weekly), so seeing his posts gave us a sense that he might still be alive.

Over time we developed rules. I rarely, rarely comment on our son’s posts. Okay, I break that rule all the time. Last night our son went to see Apocalyptica in Washington, D.C., so I commented on the picture he posted. Do I know Apocalyptica from a hole in the ground? No, but the venue was beautiful. If he doesn’t like what I post, he just takes it down.

Since he rarely comments on my posts, if I need to refer to him I use “Junior.” He’s not tagged and generally won’t see it, as in “Junior met Senator Elizabeth Warren yesterda

Telefon, Nordisk familjebok.png

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=394446

y.” This tactic allows the parent or grandparent to brag but keeps millennial eyes off the post. Of course, I’m entitled to this one joy. My cats are all dead; I have no kitty pictures to post anymore. Vacation is but once a year, and I’m not a grandmother.

While baby boomers are active users of social media, it is their children and grandchildren who tend to be the early adopters, especially the millennials.

Dr. Tamara Wandel has researched and published on social media topics since its inception in the early 2000s. “Young people are the fastest growing adopters of the newer online platforms, so they’re very interested in trying out what’s trendy. Young people still check in on Facebook, but they’re more apt to post a quick photo on Instagram, keep up with a daily Snapchat streak with friends, or retweet something on Twitter,” said the professor of communication at the University of Evansville (Indiana). “But Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, and its registered users are more broadly representative of the U.S. population as a whole.

She added, “To put in context, nearly 80 percent of online Americans use Facebook, and for Twitter, the amount is closer to 25 percent.”

While the younger folks may lead the way, seniors will likely be bringing up the rear. A British study reported by the Telegraph noted 4 in 10 baby boomers now use a smartphone, up 11 percentage points in a year, while the use of smartphones among the over-75s has nearly doubled from 8 percent to 15.

Some seniors remain resistant. The Telegraph study noted that half of the over-75 group had “no plans to use the Internet.” In my life, my 87-year-old father has no need for Internet as he has AmyNet and AndyNet (that’s us). When he wants to know something, he’ll call one of his children, knowing we have “the box” in our hands.

How did the Cubs do today? What’s happening in the market? Can you find the address of my sophomore year college roommate? Where did the Lincoln funeral train go in Indiana? (Helps that I’m married to a research librarian.)

But, God forbid Grandpa to call either of his grandsons for the same request or express any interest in going on their Facebook pages. That would just be wrong.

Amy McVay Abbott is a newly retired healthcare executive who can be reached @ravensenior on Twitter or amyistheravenlunatic on Instagram. She is not competent at either technology but gives it the old college try.

 

Please share on your social media.  It only takes a minute and will make an independent writer smile

and earn millions of dollars (well, that’s an alternative fact), but do it anyway.  Thank you.

Oct 012016
 

HEALTH October 2016

A Healthy Age

By Amy Abbott

Undiagnosed OSA is dangerous; the sleeping sufferer’s airway is blocked by erratic breathing from a complete or partial obstruction. The individual may snore, gasp, or even choke during restless sleep, waking up him/herself and anyone nearby….OSA can be a contributor to or a consequence of other health problems including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

October 1, 2016.  Have you or someone you love said this, “I would pay good money for a good night’s sleep?”

According to the Persistence Market Report group, plenty of Americans are paying good money for the elusive eight hours of sleep.

The August 2016 report noted, “North America dominates the global sleep aids market. The United States represents the largest market for sleep aids in North America.”

Additionally, the report explained that economic upswing is due to a growing senior population and increased demand for sleep medication in a complex, complicated world. Mix into the nightly brew, the marketing efforts of health and pharmaceutical organizations.

A factor in the increasing sleep market is the awareness of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) released a report this summer on the “Hidden Health Crisis Costing America Billions.”

You can’t throw a wind-up alarm clock without hitting some remedy for what ails our collective sleep. While perhaps not as hidden as the hyperbole described, sleep problems are now mainstream.

The report noted that obstructive sleep apnea is rising in prevalence in the United States, and estimated 29.4 million Americans. Amazingly, that figure represents 12 percent of our country’s population.

The AASM highlighted the annual economic consequences, “The annual financial burden of undiagnosed sleep apnea among U.S. adults is approximate $149.6 billion. This burden includes almost $87 billion in lost productivity, $26 billion in car crashes, and $6.5 billion in workplace accidents.” If the OSA remains untreated, the study authors estimated that an additional $30 a year in increased health costs and medication costs related to the co-occurring health conditions listed above.

Here’s the real sticker shocker.

According to the AASM report, if every patient in the U.S. who has sleep apnea were diagnosed and treated, it would result in an annual economic savings of more than $100 billion.

The most obvious cost is the individual and his or her family. Undiagnosed OSA is dangerous; the sleeping sufferer’s airway is blocked by erratic breathing from a complete or partial obstruction. The individual may snore, gasp, or even choke during restless sleep, waking up him/herself and anyone nearby. The next day, he may wonder why he is so sleepy. OSA can be a contributor to or a consequence of other health problems including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

How do you know if you or your significant other has OSA?

Do you snore, gasp, or choke during your sleep? You might want to ask your sleep partner, or keep a sleep diary for a week or two with what you remember. Note your awakenings, daytime sleepiness, and any naps.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests a visit to your primary care doctor, who may refer you to a sleep specialist who may be a physician schooled in sleep studies, or a lung specialist or an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

The Institute noted that your provider will ask you about your sleep and your daily functioning. He’ll be interested if any family members have OSA. Some individuals with OSA have an enlarged uvula or soft palate. The uvula hangs from the middle of your mouth, while your palate is atop the back of your mouth.

If sent for a sleep study, you may have a polysomnogram (PSG) or a home-based portable monitor. PSGs happen in hospital sleep departments or stand-alone centers. During sleep, you are monitored for brain activity, eye movement, heart rate, and blood pressure. Or you may be recommended for a home study to determine if a full PSG is needed.

Individuals with OSA use a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP.) The name sounds much worse than it is – the machine keeps your airway open while you sleep. Most CPAP machines have three parts, a mask, a hose, and the device. Technology offers variety, and if diagnosed, you may have a second sleep study to determine what type of CPAP you need.

It’s not a good idea to order your own CPAP off the Internet; anyone listening to satellite radio knows the bombastic commercials about preventing snoring.  For your safety, CPAP machines are calibrated to your own sleep and breathing patterns by your medical provider.

You’ll soon feel better. You’ll sleep better, snore less if at all, possibly reverse some health conditions, experience lowered blood pressure, and increase your alertness. Maybe, you can leap across a building in a single bound like Superman, or at the very least, go without an afternoon nap.

From Go60.us.

Find my books and columns at www.amyabbottwrites.com.

Meet Amy

Jun 052016
 

Senior Wire News Service June 2016

A Healthy Age

By Amy Abbott

 Collectors have a sense of pride about their items. Hoarders may be embarrassed. Collectors display items. Hoarders hide items.

* * *

Most of us are not going to be card-carrying hoarders. We can, however, do our children a favor, and stop taking tangible, dust-catching gifts at a certain point. My family knows if “I can’t eat, smell, or spend it, don’t give it to me.”

Seniors joke about hoarding. We are a society that loves our stuff. We watch “American Pickers” and hit auctions on weekends. Our parents and grandparents left us antiques our children despise. We’ve saved silverware for two decades that our adult children don’t want. They prefer Ikea. Our attics are full of vintage goodies, and we keep on collecting and spending.

 

When do we cross the line from collectors to hoarders?

Collectors have a sense of pride about their items. Hoarders may be embarrassed. Collectors display items. Hoarders hide items.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes these warning signs: inability to throw things away, severe anxiety when attempting to get rid of possessions, trouble organizing possessions, and indecision about storage. The ADAA also reports individuals may be suspicious of others touching their items, and experience family isolation, financial difficulties, and health hazards.

A study in the Journal of Geriatric Care Management noted this is a huge issue among the senior population, with more individuals than ever before living longer and living alone. Long-term social isolation and a genetic predisposition to hoarding may be at the root of this unusual disorder.

The article stated that apart from the obvious health hazards of living in a less-than-desirable environment, seniors in a hoarding environment may be at risk for increased falls, an exacerbation of chronic conditions, and further increased social isolation. Shame may prevent hoarders from asking anyone inside, and without help, the problem gets worse.

It’s a question and a topic of conversation among my boomer friends. Many people my age are downsizing, letting go of the big house for the condo or the mobile home or an apartment. Our houses burst with great-grandparents’, grandparents’, parents’, and children’s possessions.

Even if we are emotionally healthy, most of us are in love with our stuff. It’s all about transitioning, and it is stressful.

Don’t think it’s stressful? Take a valued possession – perhaps it’s your mother’s organ she played church music on beautifully – and try to sell it. First, since the advent of keyboards, pianos and organs have dived in value. Second, and this is hard to swallow. Valued doesn’t mean valuable. People don’t necessary want your old stuff.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to keep things than ditch them.

A new industry grew out of the problems of the elderly who need to downsize or transition. Senior move managers, according to the Journal of Geriatric Care Management, assists older adults with all aspects of relocating or modifying homes. The group is represented by the National Association of Senior Moves Managers. The group follows a strict code of ethics, and focuses on advocacy, privacy, and boosting autonomy and dignity.

If you have a friend or relative you suspect is a hoarder, how can you help?

  • Get a thorough physical exam from a reputable medical provider. Your friend may be experiencing depression, and may need counseling or medication.
  • Don’t be judgmental. Your friend may truly need and want help but is too ashamed to admit it. Your even-keel and gentle approach means everything. If you aren’t the right person, enlist someone who can work with the individual.
  • Immediately remove anything that can be a fire hazard or a safety issue. After your friend has agreed she needs help, time to enlist a crew to clean up the mess. The organization A Place for Mom suggests:
  1. Setting a date in advance with the person whose space you’ll be invading.
  2. Work one room at a time. The crew will work better-focused area by area. Your progress is also more easily noticeable, says A Place for Mom.
  3. Put someone in charge to assign tasks.
  4. Have a place in each room for keepsakes and valuables.

The organization also suggests that when all rooms are finished, hire a professional to haul away the trash (or get a dumpster in advance and have it hauled away.) Then, hire a professional cleaning service.

Hopefully, your friend has seen a physician and is in treatment to avoid the situation repeating.

Most of us are not going to be card-carrying hoarders. We can, however, do our children a favor, and stop taking tangible, dust-catching gifts at a certain point. My family knows if “I can’t eat, smell, or spend it, don’t give it to me.” My son lives in a small apartment in an East Coast city. I doubt if grandmother’s library table and Victrola are moving there anytime soon.

 

Find my books and columns at www.amyabbottwrites.com.

Meet Amy

Apr 072016
 

HEALTH April 2016 Senior Wire News Service

A Healthy Age

By Amy Abbott

But the familiar traditions – embalming the body or cremation – are transitioning as awareness of the environmental cost of modern cremation, embalming, and burial increases. While dying is a constant, the way we handle death is changing.

* * *

You do not need to hire a funeral home to care for your deceased loved one. Forty-two states allow family members to handle the entire process, including filling out death certificates and burial permits.

Many of us have purchased funeral and burial services for loved ones. We are familiar with shopping in a dimly-lighted room where spotlights cast yellow beams on rich wooden caskets and gleaming vaults.

But the familiar traditions – embalming the body or cremation – are transitioning as awareness of the environmental cost of modern cremation, embalming, and burial increases. While dying is a constant, the way we handle death is changing.

  • In Indiana, Abbey Caskets sells the monastic casket, a traditional European-style box often used without a vault. Modeled after the traditional monk’s caskets from the St. Meinrad Archabbey nearby, the caskets are handmade by local craftsmen.
  • A Saskatchewan, Canada, funeral home offers a water cremation process, using lye and water to break down the body. The National Post said the process of “alkaline hydrolysis” or water cremation doesn’t involve embalming chemicals that may leach into the ground. Many Canadians like the idea of a water cremation, though the family of a man with a fear of drowning deferred to the standard fire cremation.
  • A Swedish biologist spent 20 years developing an elaborate decomposition system that freeze dries a body, which eventually turns to dust. Moreover, for the ultimate in returning to the earth, the dust is filtered for toxic chemicals like mercury and heavy metals and placed into a pod made of potatoes or corn starch. Grist magazine reports the pod is buried close to the ground surface. Relatives can plant a tree or place a memorial above the pod, which then literally returns your body to the earth in full, unfettered fashion, no chemicals to stave off decomposition.

For generations, families kept dead relatives in the home, in the family parlor, and then buried them in the family cemetery. After the Civil War, many Americans stopped using their home as a funeral parlor, and the local funeral home became a centerpiece in many communities. The funeral industry grew as we purchased elaborate wooden or metal caskets, embalming services, and vaults that delayed inevitable decomposition and kept water from the body.

Embalming is popular in the United States and Canada, and while not required by law, is often done to preserve the body for viewing. Embalming only delays decomposition, which is the natural process of returning the body “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” as the Old Testament describes.

Cremation has gained favor, in part because families today are nomadic. Adult children often move far away from their place of birth; older adults retire to warmer climates. The cost of moving a body from one part of the country to another is expensive. Reducing a body to ashes that can be moved in an urn seems a likely solution.

According to the Cremation Society, in 1999 only about 25% of Americans opted for cremation. In 2013, the last year complete data was available, the U.S. cremation rate was 45.3%. By 2018, the U.S. cremation rate is projected to reach 50.6%.

More individuals are concerned with the energy used for cremation. The Peaceful Return site, devoted to information about burial, notes cremation systems may use between 1.2 and 2.2 million BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour. One gallon of gasoline provides 124,000 BTUs, so cremation uses precious fossil fuels. Cremation can also release 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California.

Funeral.org shared some facts about death services you may not know.

  1. You do not need to hire a funeral home to care for your deceased loved one. Forty-two states allow family members to handle the entire process, including filling out death certificates and burial permits.
  2. The law does not require embalming for the first 24 hours, and the process of embalming may create a health hazard by exposing embalmers to toxic chemicals. The site noted, “A dead body is less of a threat to public health than a live one that is coughing and breathing.” Refrigeration is, however, suggested.
  3. Caskets do not protect a body from decomposition. Likewise, vaults do not preserve a body and are not required by law. Most cemeteries, however, require vaults so the ground does not sink.
  4. Cremains are not like sand, but more like pulverized seashells, and can be legally scattered on private property.

Regardless of the choices we make in life about death; we can do our children a favor by making those wishes known in writing and putting aside funds to cover final expenses. Nothing will ease the pain of loss, but planning and pre-payment can eliminate some frustrations.

http://go60.us/health/item/2354-ashes-to-ashes-dust-to-dust-or-perhaps-a-stately-oak