5 Medication Safety Tips for Caregivers


Over two million Americans experience adverse drug reactions from prescription medications each year. Whether you’re settling into your sixties or caring for older loved ones, you should be extra careful when taking or administering prescription and over-the-counter medicines.  These medication safety tips are a good place to start.

Know Your Medicines

What you don’t know CAN hurt you. The more you know about any medicine, the better you can be sure you or your loved-one are using it properly. Keep an up-to-date list of what you or your loved-one is taking. Keep it on hand at all times – especially when visiting the doctor. Record the:

  • Medicine’s brand name, if applicable, and generic name
  • Frequency (how often its taken)
  • Dosage (ie: one pill daily; 300 mg.)
  • Prescribing doctor (if applicable)
  • Reason for taking

To help, print and fill-in this medicine list.

Take As Prescribed

Take medicine regularly and according to the doctor’s instructions. The instructions may include crushing or cutting pills. Don’t skip doses or stop taking medicines without talking to the doctor first, even if you or your loved-one feels better. Sometimes, it may take a few days to feel the negative effects of stopping a medicine.

Know Potential Side Effects

From simple, over-the-counter aspirin to the most sophisticated prescription medication on the market, all medicines come with side effects. Negative side effects can happen to anyone, regardless of whether they are taking one or a dozen different medicines.

What do you do? Learn what side effects may occur. You can do this by:

  • Reading medicine labels and bottles
  • Referring to any pamphlets that came from the pharmacy with prescription medications
  • Asking a doctor or pharmacist

Keep Everyone Informed

If you or your loved-one sees multiple doctors, it is important that you tell each provider about everything being taken, including:

  • Prescriptions,
  • Over-the-counter medicines,
  • Vitamins,
  • Supplements, including herbs or herbal supplements.

If a doctor prescribes a new medication, and you did not disclose the full medicine list, you increase the risk of negative reactions.

Do NOT Use Expired Medicine

The expiration date is the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medication. Drug expiration dates exist on most medication labels, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements. For information on how to dispose expired medicine, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.

Store Properly

Most medications should be stored at room temperature. Avoid keeping them in places with high humidity, like the bathroom. Some medicines require refrigeration. Do not store medication in the refrigerator, unless the pharmacist, label, or package insert advises refrigeration after opening.

Avoid storing medication in places where kids and pets may be able to access it. Keep medicine in childproof bottles. It is advised to keep medicines locked in a cabinet or drawer to ensure everyone’s safety.

For more information on how to safely manage and administer medication, watch this short video.

Spring Cleaning Your Senior’s Home: 7 Tips to Get it Done


It’s that time of year – Spring cleaning! For many, it can be a fruitful effort. However, for some, the task of cleaning is harder than it looks. The struggle can be even more challenging for older adults. While many seniors spend the majority of their time in a few rooms of the house, it is important to make sure clutter is removed from their main living spaces and that the area is pleasant and free of hidden dangers.

Take a look around. Are there winter blankets to pack away for the season? Are there piles of mail or expired food in the pantry? Is the space dark and depressing? It is time to clean house and brighten up the rooms. Spring cleaning, if you didn’t know, can also be a great mood booster!

To get started creating a comfortable space where older adults can happily spend time, follow these tips:

  1. Schedule it. Just like a doctor’s appointment, block off time in your and your loved-one’s schedule that you both can devote to spring cleaning. You may want to knock everything out in one weekend, or take it one chore or room at a time.
  1. Get your older adult involved
  • This is their space. Be sure to collaborate with them about changes.
  • Help them feel excited about getting a room or home makeover.
  • Tackle the rooms that they spend the most time in first.
  1. Declutter and remove tripping hazards
  • Swap out any sharp-edged furniture for softer, safer items.
  • Remove throw and area rugs.
  • Tape down or remove any exposed electrical cords.
  • Keep things simple. Donate or sell excess furniture.
  • Do not use the room as a storage area.
  • Keep only things that are actively being used.
  • Consider storage baskets or plastic containers for organization.
  1. Brighten the space
  • Improve lighting by buying brighter lights and opening the curtains.
  • Hang up a few large pictures. Anything that triggers happy memories is great. Ideas include:
    • Family photos
    • Nature scenes
    • Images from hobbies, like fishing or gardening
    • Cityscapes from favorite vacations
  1. Keep frequently used things in reach
  • Make note of the things that your loved-one reaches for constantly.
  • Figure out how to keep those items within arm’s reach of their usual seat. This could include:
    • Tissues
    • Glass of water
    • Telephone
    • TV remote control
    • Reading glasses
    • Books or puzzles
  1. Bring nature inside
  • Add some plants. Whether they are fake or real, they bring freshness and life.
  • Add natural items from favorite activities, like:
    • Shells collected from the beach
    • Flowers from the farmer’s market
    • A bowl of lemons
  1. Address any problems you uncover while cleaning. Don’t let the fruits of your labor revert back into clutter in less than six months. If you discover your loved-one has piles of unpaid bills, expired food in the pantry, or has not been cleaning up after the pets, perhaps it is time for some extra help around the house. A little housekeeping help from a caregiver a few hours a week can help keep the home clean and offer your loved-one companionship and support on a regular basis.

How else can you help someone else declutter their home? What are some ways you can prevent clutter from occurring?  Be sure to leave your questions and suggestions in the comment box below!

[Photo: Peter Voerman | Some rights reserved]

Home for the Holidays: Evaluating Your Parents’ Well-Being


This past Thanksgiving, my co-worker Jenn went home to visit her mother in Virginia Beach, Va. Jenn usually talks to her mother on the phone a least once a week, and her mother almost always says she is doing well. While it had been nearly a year since her last visit, my co-worker had no reason not to believe her mother. However upon Jenn’s arrival, she noticed her mother had lost weight since last year. And when Jenn looked inside the fridge, she found it empty except for a few rotten pieces of fruit. Knowing her mother well, Jenn knew this was not normal. Her mother usually had a fridge full of food ready to entertain anyone who may stop by.

There were other troublesome signs. Her mother, who is 83, could not seem to remember what day of the week it was and there was a pile of old, unread newspapers on the front porch.

Going home for the holidays is emotionally significant for adult children, particularly those who live out of town. It remains a time of togetherness and love, but it is also an opportunity to observe your parents’ physical and mental health to determine if they are thriving or requiring greater assistance.

What to Look For

  • A change in mobility
  • New dents in their car
  • Spoiled food in the fridge or little food (especially if this is abnormal)
  • Frequent confusion/memory loss
  • Obvious weight change
  • Unopened bills; stack of unread mail
  • Forgetting the names of household items
  • Decreased judgment regarding finances
  • Misplacing items
  • Frequent changes in mood and personality

What Next?

Try to avoid jumping to conclusions. If your parents are hosting the family get-together, they may be stressed and tired from days of preparation. After the holidays, share your concerns with siblings and family relatives. They may have noticed additional problems or have a different perspective on how to approach the situation.

Next, investigate what services are available in your parent’s community, such as adult daycare programs, homecare or cleaning services. Understanding the available care options will be extremely helpful in the conversation you have with your loved ones.

Talking to Your Parents

Before you sit down with your parents, be sure you have specific examples of changes in their behavior or health. Then, offer strategies to help them remain independent.

Even if you and your parents are close, do not expect to resolve matters in one meeting. It may take multiple conversations. Parents can feel anxious and confrontational when approached by concerned family. Reassure them by explaining that your goal is not to make decisions for them, but to guide them and help them maintain as much control as possible.

The good news is that there are often simple measures you can take to enable your parents to remain independent as long as possible, like installing a grab bar in the shower or hiring a home health aide a few days a week. You should also schedule a visit with their doctor. Informing the doctor about new concerns can shed light to underlying health conditions that may be treatable or preventable.

Keep In Mind…Becoming aware of potential health problems does not necessarily mean that your parent has to go to a long- term care facility. It can be hard for adult children to admit that the people they grew up leaning on for support now need their help. But with proactive actions, you can help your loved-ones remind independent and healthy longer.

[Photo: Betsy Devine | Some rights reserved]

High Dose Flu Vaccine FAQs

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Over the next few months, I will personally vaccinate hundreds of seniors against the seasonal flu. Many suffer from conditions that cause them to have a weakened immune system. The most common cold could send them to the hospital. With the flu vaccine being the number one source of protection against the flu, it is important seniors get vaccinated.

Today, when it comes to protecting adults over the age of 65 from the seasonal flu, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that the high dose vaccine is the best option. The new high-dose vaccine is now proven to be 24.2% more effective than the regular vaccine. However with all things new, there are still many questions about the high-dose vaccine. To help you sift through the mass amounts of information and help you make the best decision for yourself or a loved-one, below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the high-dose vaccine.

What is a high-dose flu vaccine?

Containing four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that causes the body to produce antibody) than regular flu vaccine, high-dose flu shots create a stronger immune response.

Who is approved to receive the high-dose vaccine?

The vaccine, Fluzone High-Dose, is approved for people age 65 and older. However, like all flu vaccines, it is not recommended for those who have previously experienced a reaction after receiving the vaccine.

Why is a high-dose vaccine only available for adults 65 and older?

Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza. With a higher dose of antigen in the vaccine, older people can gain a better immune response and better protect themselves against the flu. Most people under 65 do not require the added amount of antigen. The regular flu vaccine offers them enough protection.

Does the high-dose vaccine provide better immunity?

Data from clinical trials comparing the regular flu vaccine with the high-dose flu vaccine among persons aged 65 years or older indicate that a stronger immune response occurs after vaccination with the high dose vaccine. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that the high-dose vaccine is 24.2% more effective in preventing flu in adults 65 years of age and older than a standard-dose vaccine.

Is the high-dose vaccine safe?

The safety profile of the high-dose flu vaccine is similar to that of regular flu vaccines. Some adverse events (which are also reported after regular flu vaccines) were reported more frequently after vaccination with the high-dose vaccine. The most common adverse events experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary, and included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the high-dose vaccine.

Does CDC recommend one vaccine above another for people 65 and older?

The CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have not expressed a preference for any flu vaccine indicated for people 65 and older. The CDC recommends flu vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu.

Will the high-dose flu shot protect me from pneumonia?

No. Unfortunately, it only defends against influenza. You should receive a pneumonia vaccination to receive protection from pneumonia.

Where can I find more information about the high-dose vaccine?

Recognizing the Signs of Depression in a Loved-One


In the wake of Robin William’s death, many people are asking the question: “How could someone known for his humor and loving relationships have depression?” Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between depression and just a case of the blues. However, with William’s death a trending topic in the media, now is a good time to educate yourself.

For aging adults, the changes that often come in later life – retirement, the death of loved ones, increased isolation, medical issues – can lead to depression. Depression prevents you from enjoying life like you used to – but its effects go far beyond mood. Depression is not an inevitable part of aging, and there are many steps you, as a caregiver, can take to help a loved-one identify it and overcome it, no matter the challenges they face.


Signs of Depression:

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or other previously pleasurable pastimes
  • Social withdrawal and isolation – unwilling to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep irregularity – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness
  • Loss of self-worth – worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness
  • Increased use of alcohol or other substances
  • Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts

 How to Help Someone with Depression

If you think someone you love is suffering from depression, do not ignore the problem. Here is how you can help:

  • Watch and Listen for Signs: Listen carefully. If someone complains about being depressed or says people do not care, that person may really be asking for help.
  • Bring Up the Subject Carefully: Instead of plunging directly into a tough discussion about therapy or treatment, try asking if they are “okay” or if there is anything on their mind.
  • Avoid Making Comparisons: Unless you have experienced a depressive episode yourself, saying that you know how a person with depression feels is not helpful. While your intention is probably to help your loved one feel less alone in their despair, this can cut short your conversation and minimize their feelings.
  • Try a Small Gesture: If you are uncomfortable with emotional expression, you can show support in other ways. Try sending a card or cooking them a meal. These gestures provide a loving connection and confirm that you are there for them. Encourage them to participate in social or other activities they once enjoyed and go with them.
  • Try to Overcome Resistance Gently: Your loved-one might resist the idea of seeing a doctor because he or she is embarrassed or afraid. Try to help them understand that a diagnosis of depression is not something that should make them nervous or embarrassed.
  • Seek Professional Backup: If your loved-one frequently avoids your attempts to help, talk to his/her doctor. Tell the doctor your concerns, the behaviors you have noticed, and your loved-one’s resistance to get help. Older people are sometimes more willing to listen to a doctor.
  • Be Involved in Treatment: The best thing you can do for someone with depression is support his or her treatment. Tell your loved-one that depression is a medical problem and ignoring it will not make it go away. If needed, make appointments for the person or go along with them to the doctor.
  • Be Patient: Sometimes supporting someone with depression may seem like you are walking a thin line. No matter how long it takes for them to recover, let them know that you care and are here to listen or talk at any time.


How else can you show your support for someone with depression?

Where can you find community resources for caregivers or those with depression?

What are additional ideas for approaching the subject with a loved-one?

Leave your suggestions and questions in comment section below!


[Photo: Borya | Some rights reserved]


Is Your Home an Accident Waiting to Happen?


The throw rug in the bathroom, the decorative table in the hall, or the electrical cord stretched across the doorway may seem like normal living conditions. For senior citizens, these normal household items cause a major risk of fall and injury. Whether you are in your golden years or live with a loved one who is a senior, consider getting rid of the safety risks in your home.  To make sure that home is the safest and most comfortable place to be, here are some tips to prevent falls at home:

  1. Wear rubber soled footwear. Good/safe footwear includes hospital footies, slippers with closed heel loops, shoes, or crocs w/ heel loops. Avoid footwear with an open heel, dress shoes, bare feet, socks and compression stockings.
  2. Remove/minimize other tripping hazards.
    1. Remove/reduce clutter throughout house, especially along walkways. Give away extra furniture pieces that are not necessary.
    2. Secure cords with strap anchors and never let them cross a walkway.
    3. Teach young children to keep clear of family members who need assistive devices.
    4. Do not let pets wander around underfoot. Pets are very easy to trip over.
  3. Beware of rugs. Remove small area rugs. These are a major tripping hazard, especially with rolling walkers.  Secure larger area rugs with rubber backing. Use rubber-backed mats in the bathroom to prevent slipping.
  4. Use good lighting. Make sure all overhead lights are in working condition and turn lights on as you access each area. Your body uses vision as one of the three main strategies for maintaining balance.
  5. Make sure rails are secure. Install grab bars where needed. Check to make sure rails are bolted into wall studs as anchors in drywall. Consider having additional rails installed for stability, especially in the bathroom.
  6. Purchase durable medical equipment. Consider purchasing adaptive equipment like a raised toilet seat, shower chair or bed rails. These greatly decrease risk of falls.

Other Essential Steps for Preventing Falls

Assessing your home to identify fall hazards and making the necessary changes to prevent them are significant steps. It is also very important to:

  • Ask your physician or pharmacist about the effects of the prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking. Some medications can cause dizziness or light-headedness that can lead to falls. As people age, the effects of medications may change.
  • Schedule a yearly eyes exam. Vision problems can cause falls.
  • Check with your physician about the physical activity and exercise appropriate for you. Stay as physically active as you can. Exercise helps to prevent falls, especially activities that enhance balance and coordination.

How else can you prevent falls in the home?

What other precautions can you take to prevent injury in the home?

Leave your suggestions below in the comment section.

 [photo: Paul Domenic | Some rights reserved

10 Travel Trips for Caregivers

Traveling w/senior

Regardless of whether you are going to a family reunion or vacationing across the country, traveling with someone of limited mobility can be challenging. Preparation is crucial! By planning ahead and taking precautions, you and your loved-one can both enjoy your time away from home.

  1. Schedule a Health Check-Up: Before you leave, schedule a visit with the doctor. Use this opportunity for a regular check-up and to speak with your loved one’s doctor about your travel plans. If your loved-one has a pre-existing condition, ask the doctor for a copy of their medical history and an up-to-date medication list in case you need to visit a hospital while you are out of town.
  2. Plan Ahead: Contact airlines, rental car companies and hotels about special needs, such as reserving wheelchairs, dietary requirements, first floor lodging, and allowing assistive medical equipment. Remember, if you do not request these accommodations beforehand, they may not be available upon your arrival.
  3. Know the Land: Familiarize yourself with your destination before you go. Locate medical facilities, pharmacies and grocery stores. Investigate which doctors and hospitals accept your loved-one’s insurance and where they are located before traveling.
  4. Prepare All Necessary Documentation and Identification: Before you leave, make sure to have at least four photocopy sets of your-loved one’s:
  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Medicare and insurance cards
  • Travel tickets
  • Travel itinerary
  • Boarding passes (if secured in advance online)
  • Physician prescriptions and/or statements
  • List of all current medications

One complete set should be placed in your loved-one’s carry-on bag, another in his or her checked baggage. One set is for you to keep in your carry-on bag, and one is left at home. If your loved-one has dementia, a wearable identification bracelet or GPS unit may also be a good idea.

  1. Bring Prescriptions: If your trip involves flying, be sure that medication is packed in the carry-on bag and in its original container. Always bring enough for the length of travel plus a few additional doses in case travel plans are delayed. Check with their doctor or a pharmacist to see whether you will need any special certificate for traveling with certain meds. In addition, be sure to review medication side effects, such as exposure to the sun or interaction with certain foods.
  2. Pack Appropriately: This is particularly important if you are traveling with a loved one who needs special care and assistance. Pack lightly but appropriately for their needs. The less in your hands, the more you can help them if they need aid. Take along support stockings for long road trips or flights and a backup of medical supplies, including antacids, bug repellent and band-aids. Have snacks and plenty of water readily available. Even if your destination offers such necessities, you will be better able to enjoy yourself if you have them on hand.
  3. Keep Things Familiar: A new environment may be confusing to an aging parent. Maintaining a routine or a predictable schedule is critical to reducing stress and anxiety in a loved one with cognitive impairment or dementia. Bring a few favorite objects to create a sense of home, and keep mealtimes, medication schedules and rest times as consistent as possible.
  4. Plan Shifts: You might be the primary caregiver at home, but remind your family that they can help too. Set up a schedule so that everyone has a few hours where he or she is responsible for your loved one.
  5. Avoid Harsh Temperatures: Depending on the time of year and your travel destination, be smart about conditions like dehydration, heat exhaustion and frost bite.
    • During warm temperatures, avoid the hottest part of the day – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – wear light, loose fitting clothing; and drink plenty of water.
    • For winter weather, avoid the extreme cold; wear warm clothing that covers the hands, feet and face; and always have extra blankets on hand.

    Remember, the elderly do not always respond to temperature correctly. Be sure to take precautions before they become a victim.

  6. Plan for Downtime: There is nothing less relaxing during a vacation than having to rush from place to place. Your elderly relative might not be able to keep up with certain activities, so be sure to work a fair share of rest, naps and downtime into your trip.

What other travel tips can you offer family caregivers?

Are there services available to help plan travel arrangements for the disabled?

Which travel companies are the most senior friendly?

From experience, what time of day is best for seniors to travel?

Leave your comments and questions in comment section below.