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A Comprehensive Guide to Eye Care for Seniors

Published by Meghan Villalba, President | AROCC.org

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Introduction: Why Is Eye Care for Seniors Important? 

As we age, there’s nothing more important than our health, specifically the wellness of our five senses. Vision is no exception to the rule, yet it can be difficult to feel like you’re doing enough for your eye care as you get older.  According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, approximately one in three elderly people experiences some type of vision reduction or eye disease by age 65. 

Regular, preventative eye care screenings ideally are already a part of your annual or biannual health check-ups. Sure, it’s normal for prescriptions to change. As you grow older, normal changes to vision are bound to happen. Your 20/20 vision may fade. You may find yourself trying on reading glasses at the pharmacy these days. Seeing your eye doctor (ophthalmologist) once in a while may seem like enough of a preventative measure but for seniors, it’s critically important to go the extra mile. 

Grandmother and granddaughter look at a cell phone

Eye health can affect your holistic physical and mental health. Many seniors experience slips and falls that otherwise could be mitigated by successful eye surgery. Seniors with eye conditions may get back functionality and independence when they seek professional treatment. 

For example, successful eye surgery may lengthen the time one can continue to drive a vehicle. Vision is a beautiful part of life, and no one who can have relief from symptoms should settle for less than great eyecare. 

It’s important to understand that an eye disease or eye condition does not always indicate that you will experience vision loss. Often, vision loss occurs when symptoms are beyond surgical repair. 

In this guide, you’ll learn eye care best practices, discover warning signs of age-related conditions, and know what to expect when you get a preventative eye exam. When you’re armed with knowledge about symptoms and treatment options for eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, you’ll make smarter, logic-informed decisions for disease prevention. 


What Eye Conditions Should You Look Out For? 

Blue eyes are prone to conditions and diseases as we age

There are four critical diseases of the eye that affect seniors: 

  1. Cataracts
  2. Macular Degeneration
  3. Glaucoma
  4. Diabetic Eye Disease  

1. Cataracts

A cataract is a medical condition where the lens of the eye starts to become visibly cloudy, causing blurred vision and decreased coordination due to lack of clarity. 

Specifically, proteins in the eye accumulate and eventually prevent the retina and the lens of the eye from sending clear images to one another. Developing a cataract is considered a standard age-related condition, and the main treatment option available for cataracts is surgery. 

A) Early Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts 

Cataracts tend to develop slowly over time, but there are common signs beyond cloudy vision you can watch out for. 

  • Double vision or seeing halos
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Difficulty seeing in low light 
  • Noticeable changes in prescription or vision, especially if in between appointments with your eye care practitioner  
  • Loss of vibrancy when seeing color 
  • Blurred vision

B) Who Is Most at Risk?

Ophthalmologists generally refer to cataracts as an age-related condition of the eye. However, there are some lifestyle and health decisions that can increase your risk of developing cataracts, such as: 

  • Smoking or excessive consumption alcohol 
  • Obesity 
  • Diabetes 
  • High blood pressure
  • Sustained, regular, unprotected sun exposure (specifically to UV radiation)
  • Previous injury to the eye

C) Treatment 

If you’re not interested in eye surgery and prefer to manage cataracts alternatively, talk to your ophthalmologist about stronger lenses or other ways to live with your cataracts. 

However, in most cases, your eye doctor will recommend surgery to remove the cataract so you can return to daily activities and maintain your eye health for longer.

The National Eye Institute reports a 90% efficacy rate, where 9 out of every 10 people who get the surgery have better vision afterward. 

Cataract surgery tends to be an outpatient procedure that takes an hour or less. The eye will receive an anesthetic, and the patient will receive a mild sedative to place them at ease.

D) Resources on Cataracts

2. Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the thinning of the “macula,” which is the part of the retina that makes vision clear and detailed. The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute defines “age-related macular degeneration” (AMD) as progressive eye condition that affects as many as 15 million Americans, with 200,000 new cases each year. 

Though macular degeneration is classified as incurable, there are varying degrees of severity. AMD happens gradually, and there are three stages of the disorder:

  1. Early AMD, where vision loss has not yet occurred. Your eye doctor can still discover macular degeneration during this stage, especially if you are getting examined regularly. 
  2. Intermediate AMD is where you may experience some vision loss, but perhaps not enough to notice or worry you. 
  3. Late AMD, where vision loss is recognized.   

A) Early Signs and Symptoms of Macular Degeneration 

Symptoms will vary based on the person, but a few things a macular degeneration patient may experience are: 

  • Diminished vision in one (or both) eyes 
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes in light, or work in dim light
  • Blurred vision, whether when interacting with people or reading 
  • Uncomfortable brightness in situations that aren’t as bright as perceived 

B) Who Is Most at Risk? 

According to The Mayo Clinic, smoking nearly doubles your risk of developing AMD. Studies suggest that obesity and cardiovascular disease may predispose someone to macular degeneration as well. Your eye doctor will also always take family history and genetics into consideration. Most patients with AMD are over the age of 50.

C) Treatment 

Unlike glaucoma, there isn’t a medical treatment for macular degeneration. The best measures against AMD are preventative ones, such as following a diet dense in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and omega-3s. Quitting smoking or avoiding smoking is another way to reduce your likelihood of macular degeneration. 

Protecting the eyes from sun exposure such as harmful UV rays or blue light is another key prevention tool. 

D) Resources on Macular Degeneration 

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye condition where the main nerve to the eye—also referred to as the “optic nerve”—becomes damaged. Vision becomes patchy. 

While scientists aren’t completely sure why this happens, glaucoma can lead to sudden and complete vision loss without showing major signs or symptoms. Early detection is the only way to prevent glaucoma from affecting vision. Any vision loss associated with glaucoma can’t be recovered. Glaucoma Research Foundation reported research from The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group that in the U.S., more than 120,000 are blind from the condition.

Regular eye exams can make the difference between glaucoma detection and missing a diagnosis. There are multiple types of glaucoma, according to the International Glaucoma Association, such as primary open angle glaucoma, secondary glaucoma, and others. 

A) Early Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma 

The tricky part about glaucoma is that it usually doesn’t have symptoms at first, which can make detection difficult. Signs of the disease worsening include loss of peripheral (side) vision. Glaucoma can occur in one or both eyes. 

Some other symptoms of glaucoma include blurred or distorted vision, eye pain, loss of peripheral vision, and headaches. 

B) How is Glaucoma Diagnosed? 

Glaucoma is typically diagnosed through a dilated eye exam, which is painless for the patient. 

C) Who Is Most at Risk?

According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma can affect anyone, but those who are over the age of 60 are the most susceptible. If you have a family history of glaucoma, you’ll want to be extra vigilant about getting regular complete eye exams. 

The American Optometric Association reports that African Americans over the age of 40 and Hispanics over the age of 60 present a higher risk of developing glaucoma.  

It’s worth noting that glaucoma doesn’t only affect seniors; it can happen at any age. Developmental glaucoma is when newborns or young children experience the disease.

D) Treatment 

Eye conditions like glaucoma are highly variable, and eye doctors determine specific treatment based on factors like the damage to the optic nerve, corneal thickness, and how much the glaucoma is affecting peripheral vision. There are three main forms of glaucoma treatment today:

  1. Eye drops, which lower the pressure of the eye to lessen optic nerve damage 
  2. Laser treatment, also called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty, creates better drainage in the eye to relieve intraocular pressure (IOP)
  3. Surgery was previously the least common treatment type, but is gaining popularity in newer studies. Glaucoma specialists will recommend surgery when laser treatment and eye drops aren’t helping your symptoms. The typical recovery period for eye surgery lasts between 3-6 weeks. 

E) Resources on Glaucoma 

4. Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease is also called “diabetic retinopathy,” occurring when blood vessels of the retina are damaged. Poor regulation of blood sugar can increase your risk of diabetic eye disease. The longer you’ve been living with diabetes, the higher your chance of developing retinopathy. 

There are two main types of diabetic eye disease: 

  1. Nonproliferative Retinopathy, which is where capillaries in the eye form pouches that affect vision and is the most common of the retinopathies
  2. Proliferative Retinopathy, which causes the development of new, weak blood vessels as they try to increase blood flow to the struggling eye. 

The best thing patients with diabetic eye disease can do is closely monitor both their vision, diabetes, and health. Working with multiple healthcare practitioners for a holistic practice is critical to slow its progression. Diabetic blindness can occur when the disease is left to its own devices.

A) Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Eye Disease 

In the early states of diabetic eye disease, symptoms may be very mild or difficult to connect with your diabetes. You may experience: 

  • Flashing lights in your vision 
  • Floating spots in the eye, called “floaters”
  • Blind spots
  • Poor or diminished perception of color 

B) Who Is Most at Risk?

  • People with type 1 and 2 diabetes are at increased risk for the disease and its complications, according to the American Diabetes Association.  
  • Those who smoke or have smoked in the past 
  • Those with patterns of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar
  • Those with diabetes who opt not to get an annual dilated eye exam, which can ward off the advancement of the disease

C) Treatment 

Milder cases of diabetic eye disease can be maintained with careful monitoring of diabetes and blood sugar. Once blood pressure and blood sugar are controlled for several months, repair can begin to naturally occur, according to Harvard Health Publishing

More serious cases of diabetic retinopathy mean that the retina has sustained damage that require surgery. Laser treatments, injections of medication into the eye, and surgery on the retina are common treatment options for this category. 

The retina can detach from its proper place, so an eye doctor may recommend a laser surgery to shrink the rogue, weak blood vessels causing the detachment. Injection of a medication to the eye that blocks the growth of blood vessels in the eye is another course of treatment that has seen an increase in efficacy according to the American Society of Retina Specialists

Always ask your eye doctor which treatment is most appropriate for your case of diabetic eye disease.

D) Resources on Diabetic Eye Disease


Preventative Eye Care Tips 

Woman operates an eye testing device in an office.

Daily life has plenty of distractions, screens, and harsh lights that can affect your vision over time. 

One tenant of good eye care is consistency. You wouldn’t apply sunscreen only on beach days, right? The same principle applies to practicing good eye care. Here are some tips: 

  • Ask your family and loved ones about their eye history, and write down their responses to share with your eye doctor
  • Take measures to quit smoking or avoid smoking altogether
  • Exercise regularly for optimal health. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week for adults
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect the eye from harsh UV lights
  • Wear protective eye gear during activities where the eye may sustain damage or get hurt
  • Don’t overwear contact lenses, which can cause infection of the eye
  • If you do wear contact lenses, follow cleanliness guidelines and your eye doctor’s instructions for how often to discard them

Nutrition 

We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale at the kitchen table: “Eat carrots to improve your vision!” Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a carrot a day keeps the cataracts away. Though carrots do contain essential vitamins like Vitamin A, which protects the eye by strengthening its surface.

There are dietary best practices that can better your eye health in the long-term; for example, Real Simple recommends following a diet that’s dense in leafy greens like kale and spinach, squash, and, essentially, sticking to a colorful diet. 

Medical News Today also provides dietary suggestions such as increasing intake of antioxidants and omega-3s, as well as recommended daily intakes from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. 


Eye Check Up Protocol for Seniors 

Why Do You Need an Eye Exam?

Eye exams are the only method we have of identifying early onset eye conditions. 

It’s important to get eye exams on a regular basis the same way that you’d put gas in your car if the tank was running low, or visit the doctor annually for a physical exam. 

For those over 60 years old, regular eye exams can make a difference in the future health of your eyes and your vision.  

How Often Do You Need an Eye Exam?

According to Prevent Blindness.org, how often you should get your eyes checked varies based on your age range and pre-existing health conditions.  

  • Those between 40-64 should get a complete eye exam every 2-4 years 
  • Those 65 years or older should see their ophthalmologist every year
  • Those with pre-existing eye conditions or concerns about family history should ask their eye doctor how often they’d like to see them

Do You Need An Eye Exam If You Have Good Vision? 

The short answer is: yes! Just because you have good eyesight doesn’t mean you may not have underlying conditions that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Regular eye exams, just like going to the dentist or your primary care doctor, are preventative and can identify warning signs of eye disease or vision issues before symptoms appear, or worsen. 

What to Expect at an Eye Exam for Seniors

Even if you have good vision, you’ll still need to have your eyes tested. Eye exams can be as simple as the standard inspection ophthalmologists use to prescribe glasses. Early detection is the key to preventing vision loss. 

With advancing technologies, videos of different eye conditions make it easier to understand potential conditions and diagnoses. You don’t need to be in medical school to benefit from learning some eye anatomy. 

You may hear a lot about corrective surgeries like Lasik, but remember—your ophthalmologist would never recommend an exam or treatment that they truly didn’t believe you need.  

Why Do I Need a Dilated Eye Exam? 

Dilation is the widening of the pupil to increase light to the eye. Dilated eye exams are one of the only methods of detection for glaucoma or macular degeneration. According to the Mayo Clinic, dilation can also identify health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. After dilation, which is a painless process, you will generally experience blurry vision or some extra light sensitivity. 

If you do have a dilated eye exam during your visit with the ophthalmologist, it’s recommended that you avoid driving or operating machinery for at least several hours until the pupil returns to normal dilation. 


Convincing An Elderly Family Member to See An Ophthalmologist

As family members and friends grow older, it may be tricky to convince them that going to the ophthalmologist is necessary—especially if they insist they’re healthy. You may be tempted to take a family member at their word, but eye issues can come on suddenly, and seniors may not realize the severity of their symptoms if they’re treating other major health problems in tandem. 

Some don’t have eye insurance, which can add another layer of difficulty, especially if they’re paying out of pocket for all their eyecare. Exams, treatments, and surgeries can add up on top of existing bills and medical necessities.

However, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your vision is well-cared for and addressing any symptoms that arise far outweighs the alternative—missed diagnoses, discomfort, or even loss of vision. 

Resources: 

  • EyeCare America, also known as the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides information on no and low-cost eye exams. 
  • The [no-follow] National Eye Institute compiled a list of applications and programs to help pay for eye care and low-cost alternatives. 
  • Programs that provide free eye exams and glasses 

Check Your Insurance Coverage: 

  • eHealthMedicare details what specific Medicare programs can help with senior eye care
  • Learn details of individual plans like Humana
  • Recommendations on vision insurance from Senior Living

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Tips for Helping Seniors Age in Place While Reducing the Risk of Falls

According to Seniors Resource Guide, aging in place is defined as the ability for a senior to live in a home of their choice “safely, independently, and comfortably.” Income levels, physical ability, and age aren’t calculated into this definition. Most people hold this as the gold standard for senior living conditions; however, this isn’t achieved without some preparation and oversight.
Keep in mind that 60 percent of senior falls happen in the home. In order to create a safe place to live and prevent a trip to the ER, seniors and their homes will have to undergo some changes. Here are some tips for helping a senior age in place while reducing the risk of falls.

Participate in Physical Therapy
Physical therapy isn’t only intended for individuals recovering from an accident, injury, or surgery. This practice has the ability to help anyone improve their posture, range of motion, and stability. For seniors, physical therapy can aid in fall prevention. The reason so many seniors fall at home is due to their weakening muscles and brittle bones. Professionals can help correct these problems by working with seniors to improve their mobility and build up their musculoskeletal strength. When practiced regularly, physical therapy can work to prevent the kinds of falls that could make it impossible for a senior to age in place.


Invest in an Emergency Alert System
Although aging in place allows seniors to live their lives independently, there are some inherent risks that come with this decision. It’s always a good idea to have an emergency alert system as a backup just in case something goes wrong. Even if you take all of the necessary precautions,
there is still a chance that a senior may suffer from a bad fall. The best way to make sure this fall isn’t serious or life-threatening, you should invest in some sort of device that allows seniors to contact help immediately. The cost of these devices pales in comparison to the security and peace of mind it offers to older adults who wish to age in place.

Keep Lighting Even Throughout the Home
Working to reduce the risk of falls doesn’t only involve home modifications. There are more subtle and affordable changes that can help achieve the same goal. For example, keeping a home’s lighting balanced can improve visibility and stability. As we age, our eyes have difficulty
adjusting
quickly to sudden changes in lighting, whether we go from darkness to light or vice versa. To help combat this problem, seniors should keep all rooms at the same brightness setting. This is especially important in hallways, staircases, and other tight places.

Remodeling Bathrooms for Greater Accessibility
Bathrooms are tricky places for seniors to maneuver. And since these rooms are frequented more than once a day, it’s necessary to make some modifications to help reduce the chance of a fall. You can start by adding grab bars around the toilet and bathtub for greater stability and
support. Bathtubs and showers with high entrances also pose a threat. If you can afford the renovation, a no-threshold entry makes it much safer and easier for a senior to get in and out. Aging in place is a goal for many seniors who want to maintain their independence, quality of life, and reduce their visits to the ER and doctor’s office. Since seniors are at a high risk of falling and sustaining permanent injuries, it’s necessary to make some lifestyle and home changes to help reduce this tendency and make it possible to age in place comfortably.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

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The complete medication management guide for seniors

Given the risk of chronic disease increases for all of us as we age, it’s not surprising that two out of three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions. These conditions often involve complex treatments, like juggling a handful of different medications. That’s why we put together this toolkit. This medication management guide will empower seniors, caregivers, and family members with helpful information about medication use, storage, organization, and more.

In this guide, you’ll learn how age changes our response to medication, and how to keep track of the medication you’re taking. You can also find out how you can reduce your medication error and drug interaction risks.

Throughout this guide, you’ll find tips for becoming a more active part of your own health care. We believe education empowers you. Of course, it’s important to always check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any new medication or make changes to your medication regimen, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider how the information in this guidebook can apply to your individual health.

Effective medication management requires teamwork

You’re an important part of your own health care—which is why you should educate yourself and be an empowered consumer. To be successful, you’ll need to partner with your healthcare team to keep them informed and work together to make the right medication adjustments. Instead of prescribing medication once and refilling it for the rest of your life, your doctor needs to be aware of health status changes that may affect or even eliminate your need for certain medications altogether.

“I would also recommend asking if there are any medications which are no longer needed,” says Erin Pitkethly, pharmacist at Robinsong Health Low Carb Clinic. “It is very common for meds to be added on, but it is uncommon for them to be stopped even when they are no longer needed. ”

Adding to the potential confusion, many seniors have a mix of different medicines, some of which are prescription and some that are not. Even if it’s just a medicine you take for a temporary condition, it’s important to read labels and understand why you’re taking every drug.

Regardless of the type of medication, it should have a label with basic information that can serve as your guide and starting point.

Reading medication labels

8 Parts of a Prescription Label

As you review your new prescription, be sure to read the label carefully for information on dosage, timing, interactions, and other important medication management details.

Typically, a prescription label has eight parts and types of information. Keep in mind that your own prescription labels may look somewhat different, but they will generally have similar content listed for you to reference. Learn to recognize these parts on your own medications:

  1. Pharmacy information: Name and address, phone number, and other key details about the pharmacy that filled your prescription.
  2. Your information: Name and address of the person the drug is prescribed to.
  3. Prescribing doctor’s information: Physician or healthcare provider’s name and contact information are also included.
  4. Drug name and strength: Medicine’s brand, chemical, or generic name along with the strength of one unit of the prescription in a measurement such as milligrams (mg).
  5. Instructions: Instructions might read “Take one tablet twice daily, morning and night, by mouth” and explain how and when to take the medication. Always read the instructions section carefully for any new medication, and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.
  6. Prescription information: Date your medication was prescribed, the date your medication was filled by a pharmacist, the number of pills or doses provided, how many times your prescription may be refilled, when your medication expires, and the number your pharmacy assigned to your prescription.
  7. Pharmaceutical manufacturer information: Name of the company that manufactured your medication and a physical description of the drug. If it’s a generic version of a brand-name drug, the name of the branded counterpart may also be listed here.
  8. Federal caution statement: Prescription warnings such as “Caution: Federal law prohibits transfer of this drug to any person other than the patient for whom prescribed.” Remember, you should never take someone else’s medication even if you’ve taken it before. It’s dangerous to take medicine that’s not prescribed for you and doing so could put your health at serious risk.
Over-The-Counter Drug Facts example

An over-the-counter medication you can purchase without a prescription has a different label, called a drug facts label. Here’s what that usually includes according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

  • Active ingredient(s): The therapeutic ingredients within your medication and the amount in each dose.
  • Uses: Any symptoms or condition the medicine is designed to treat or prevent.
  • Warnings: This section tells you when you shouldn’t use this medicine, lists possible side effects and drug interactions, lists any conditions that may require a doctor’s advice before taking the medicine, tells you when you should stop taking the medicine and see a doctor, and provides other critically important information about taking the medication. Read this section carefully. If you’re concerned about anything you see, talk to a healthcare professional.
  • Inactive ingredients: Other substances added that don’t have a therapeutic effect, such as colors or flavors.
  • Purpose: The medicine’s category or action is included (for instance, antacid or pain reliever).
  • Directions: Dosage information may offer different doses for different ages or symptoms. It may also direct you to ask a doctor.
  • Other information: Anything else the manufacturer wants you to know about the medicine. It may include information about how to store the drug. It may also list how much of an ingredient (such as calcium) the medication contains.

When you get a new medication, take a look at the label and jot down any questions you have for your healthcare provider. If you’re using medication reminders, add this prescription so everything is ready for the first day of treatment. If you encounter anything unusual or confusing on your label, check with your pharmacist.

Do keep in mind that your prescription is tailored to your health. Even if a friend or family member is taking the same medicine, your medication may work differently for you. This is one reason why it’s absolutely essential to refer to your healthcare team for medical advice and information instead of other sources (like the internet) meant for a broad audience. Only your healthcare provider can give you relevant guidance for how to take medications safely.

Aging changes our responses to medication

As we age, our bodies change how they interact with medications. Even very healthy people might respond differently to medications than they did in earlier years. Getting the most from your medications is possible with close cooperation with your healthcare team.

How does aging change the body’s reaction to pharmaceuticals? Here are few possible changes.

  1. Metabolism: Your body processes each medication at a different rate. Over time, your metabolism of a particular drug may speed up or slow down. This can increase the risk of side effects or decrease the effectiveness of the drug.
  2. Brain and nervous system: Many drugs impact the central nervous system (CNS) directly and aging can change this process. For example, seniors are more susceptible to the CNS effects of drugs like benzodiazepines and antidepressants.These effects can include increased dizziness or drowsiness for some people.
  3. Kidney and liver function: Since these organs are responsible for filtering and cleaning, any age-related changes to kidney and liver function can adjust how well your body is able to remove medicines and toxins.
  4. Weight changes: Many people gain or lose weight as they experience appetite changes. Some drugs are processed and distributed differently throughout the body depending on your body weight.

“Elders have less tolerance for medications than younger adults,” says Elizabeth Landsverk, MD, a board-certified geriatric doctor and founder of ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine. Dr. Landsverk notes that these changes in how our bodies process medication can lead to different side effects. The timing of new side effects may provide clues to the root cause, however. “If a symptom starts after a new medication, it’s likely a side effect from the new meds,” she says. “Seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist, they will likely change the prescription. Do not change dosages or try a different medication based on something you read on the internet.”

Aging may also change the dosage you need before your medications are effective. So your healthcare providers should regularly reevaluate the medicines you’re taking to see if new prescriptions are necessary. According to Dr. Landsverk, many seniors gradually lose their appetite and experience weight loss that impacts medication dosage.

If you notice anything different or unusual during treatment, it’s important to bring this up during your next conversation with your doctor or pharmacist.

Medication safety tips and dosage information

Knowing how to manage your medications can be the key to benefiting the most from your treatments. Medicines have the potential to make life-changing improvements to your health. At the same time, your medications are only helpful if you know how to use them correctly.

Ultimately, your doctor or personal healthcare provider and your pharmacist should be your guide on how to use and track your medications. When in doubt, be sure to check with a qualified health professional. Only your healthcare provider or pharmacist knows how your individual health profile, health status, and history impact your medication needs.

Medication safety also means knowing where many seniors go wrong with medication management and how you can avoid those mistakes to protect yourself.

Common medication mistakes and how to avoid them

“The two key challenges that seniors face are polypharmacy (taking lots of pills) and remembering to take them,” says Dr. Ceppie Merry, who holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology. “It can be really complex to remember what to take and when to take them.” Merry also adds that any cognitive decline or complex conditions seniors have can make it even easier to make mistakes when managing your own medications.

Medication errors can have serious consequences for your health. Many people accidentally take the wrong dose, miss doses, or take their medications incorrectly. Don’t panic if you use your medication incorrectly, but do call your doctor if you’re concerned. (If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911.) The adage “better safe than sorry” applies here. This is why you should always keep important phone numbers like your doctor’s contact information nearby in case you need to call their office.

To stay on track with taking your medicines, it helps to have a medication strategy. Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk of a serious medication error.

  • Take medications consistently: Always take your medications at a consistent time. It also helps with consistency if you can associate taking the medication with a specific event like a meal. For instance, if you take a pill with breakfast at 8 a.m. one day, try to always take that medicine around 8 a.m. when you eat.
  • Use reminders: Forgetful about taking your medicine? Consider using a reminder app or setting an alarm for each dose.
  • Prevent interactions: Many medicines can’t be taken together or with specific foods or supplements. A lot of medications interact with citrus fruits, for example. Your pharmacist can help you identify any diet or medication list changes you need to make.
  • Get a medication review: With every new prescription, ask your pharmacist to review your medication and supplement list. Your healthcare provider may recommend ideas for how to take them together safely. Also, see if you’re eligible for your pharmacy’s medication therapy management (MTM) program. Your pharmacist will sit down with you for a comprehensive medication review at no additional cost to you.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist: If you’re prone to forgetting doses or taking an extra pill now and then, ask your healthcare professional what you should do if this happens. Sometimes, it’s not a big deal. Other medications might cause a serious interaction, side effect, or other serious damage to your health.
  • Read the literature and instructions: If your medication came with written information or your healthcare provider included instructions, be sure to read these carefully. If anything is unclear, don’t hesitate to make a note of it. Call your doctor and ask for clarification before you start taking your medication. It’s a good practice to read the instructions before you leave the pharmacy, so you can ask the pharmacist.

Have trouble remembering your medications? Here are a few ideas to try.

  • Use a dosage reminder or pill reminder app: Consider using a smartphone pill reminder app to remind you to take medication.
  • Set an alarm: Set an alarm for times during the day that you take your medicine. Be sure to keep track of what you’re supposed to take, too.
  • Make a list: Write down a list of your medicines and the time you take them so you can easily refer back to it later.
  • Ask for help remembering: If a family member, friend, or caregiver can help you remember, ask for their help.
  • Add it to your calendar or planner: Write down reminders in your calendar or planner.
  • Use sticky notes, send yourself emails, or post other reminders: Think about how you manage your time and how you use reminders. Choose a method that works best for you.
  • Use a pill organizer for medication storage: At most drugstores, you can buy an inexpensive pill organizer with compartments for different times and days. This works best if you take a small number of medications every day.

Keeping your medications organized may also prevent mistakes. Here’s how to get started with tracking and organizing medicines.

Organizing your medications and medication storage

Managing your medications is easier when you can fully account for everything you’re taking. With the help of a healthcare professional (if needed), gather all the medications and supplements you’re currently taking and start organizing them.

Consider these tips to help with medication management.

  • Create a medication list (if needed, use a medication list template): Write the name of each prescription you’re taking on the list. You can also add information about how often you take each dose and for what condition, but the important thing is to start with a complete list of drug names and doses so your healthcare provider knows where to look and what questions to ask.
  • Start with supplements: Since so many people don’t consider supplements to be medications, it’s not uncommon for some seniors to take supplements that interact with medications prescribed by their doctors (or contain unhealthy ingredients). Bottom line—your doctor needs to know. Make sure your personal medication list template covers supplements.
  • List all OTC (over-the-counter) medicines you take: Many seniors take drugstore medications that are sold over-the-counter without a prescription such as acetaminophen (the generic version of Tylenol) for pain relief or calcium carbonate antacids for managing heartburn.
  • Keep medication packaging: Hold onto the original boxes and containers for your medications so you can quickly refer to the package or label if needed. Package inserts or patient information leaflets are included with the medication so be sure to keep it with the original packaging. A shoebox-size plastic storage bin with a lid or a gallon-size plastic bag are great ways to store packaging and information for medicines you’re currently taking. Always store your medicinesand packaging away from where pets and children can reach them, even if your medicines have child-proof caps.
  • Pick one pharmacy: Ideally, you should only use one pharmacy so your pharmacist can easily review your other prescriptions and provide you with relevant information about contraindications. If you must use more than one pharmacy for any reason, be sure to provide complete information about the medications you’re currently taking, and make sure the pharmacist has access to this information.

As you organize your medications, don’t forget to check expiration dates and remove medicines you no longer take. Ask your doctor if it’s okay to discard old medication documentation.

Reviewing medicine with your pharmacist or doctor

Periodically, you should have a medication review appointment with your doctor. During these appointments, you’ll want to keep your doctor informed about how your treatment is going. This is also a good time to ask questions and express your concerns. Highlight any side effect you haven’t told your doctor about yet, and mention any frustrations or concerns you have with your medicines. Don’t forget to bring a list of questions with you. Since many doctor appointments are short, make the most of your time together by preparing a list of topics and questions beforehand.

By educating yourself and managing your medications properly, you may get better results from your treatment and you may avoid some of the common risks of using medicines. Your healthcare team is there to help you. Work closely with them and become your own healthcare advocate.

For more information, please contact Sarah Breckon at sbreckon@singlecare.com

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Staying Happy and Healthy: How Seniors Can Maintain a Safe and Fulfilling Life

By Hazel Bridges

Your body goes through a number of gradual changes as it ages. Your sense of smell and taste are altered, the body loses some of its strength and flexibility, and memory and cognition may slowly diminish. Lifestyle changes and adaptations are often necessary during the later years, but
your basic needs stay the same. You still need to exercise, eat nutritious food, find ways to keep your mind active, and pay close attention to your health.

Nutrient-Dense Foods
As your sense of taste changes, your food preferences may shift. Foods you once ate with gusto may have lost their luster., but the need for a diet rich in nutritional food remains. Your diet still needs to include vegetables and fruit (the more colorful the better); beans, seeds, and nuts; low- fat dairy, including milk, cheese, and yogurt; protein-rich meats, including seafood, poultry, and eggs; and whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Mindful Chef and Hello Fresh, two of Britain’s leading meal delivery services, offer delicious foods made from healthy ingredients, a valuable resource if cooking every day has become too difficult.
If you’re looking for some easy and healthful recipes, why not enjoy a breakfast of scrambled eggs over red potatoes and a salmon wrap for dinner (salmon in a whole grain wrap with tomatoes and avocado)? Or, if you’re into really simple recipes, just whip up a can of pinto or black beans and serve with brown rice, oats, or barley.
Technology Smart home technology is making it easier for older adults to age in place and live safely in their homes. For those with hearing impairments, smart doorbells allow you to see who’s at the front door, whereas external security cameras help keep your home secure from intruders. These high-tech advantages also let you check on your house from wherever you happen to be, and indoor cameras make it easy for family members to keep an eye on you.

Senior-Friendly Exercise
Exercise is an important factor in one’s health no matter what age you happen to be. Even if mobility limitations make it difficult to engage in physical activity, there are many senior- friendly exercises that can be done easily in the comfort of your own home. Just raising your arms and legs slowly can help strengthen weakened limbs, and all you need to do toe raises is a straight-backed chair to lean on. If walking is your favorite form of exercise, start a walking group with friends so you can enjoy some social interaction as you exercise. However you like to exercise, bear in mind the National Health Service’s recommendation that seniors need to do two types of physical activity every week, involving both aerobic and strength exercises.

The NHS and Seniors
The National Health Service works to help seniors remain as healthy and independent as possible, for as long as possible. That includes using early identification and self-management assistance to help reduce the period of time an older adult spends in ill health. Check out this online resource on healthy aging. The NHS emphasizes personalized care planning and provides information on maintaining a safe home environment. Older adults who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can find support through Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society. Growing older doesn’t have to mean giving up on an active and enriching life. Your body may have changed, but you don’t have to settle for a sedentary lifestyle. The secret to good health
remains much the same for seniors as it always has: exercise, eat a nutritious and well-rounded diet, and pay careful attention to one’s health and in-home safety. It’s a time to try new things, to see new places, and make (or renew) friendships.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Seriously Simple, and Smart, Ways to Plan Ahead for Long-Term Care

Seriously Simple, and Smart, Ways to Plan Ahead for Long-Term Care

Why do you need to plan ahead for long-term care? If you have no clue how to answer this and you are planning for retirement, you could be in for a major financial surprise. Long-term care is expensive and most everyone needs it at some point, so it’s important to take these long-term care planning tips to heart before you finalize your retirement plans.

 

Be Aware of Medicare Limitations

If you’re looking forward to retirement, you may think you don’t need to plan for long-term care because Medicare will cover it. This is a huge mistake, however, because Medicare offers basically no coverage when it comes to paying for a nursing home, an assisted living home, or in-home care. That’s because this kind of care is considered custodial, rather than medical, and therefore is not included in the coverage that most seniors receive from Medicare. With long-term care, you are more likely to need help with daily tasks such as bathing or dressing, and this is why more involved care is necessary. Medicaid might cover some costs if you’re eligible, or you may be entitled to assistance from the VA if you have served in the military or are an eligible dependent. If neither of these is an option, you will need to come up with other ways to plan for care. However, try not to stress yet. If you are planning well ahead of time, you have some ways to prepare yourself for long-term care.

Make Healthier Changes to Your Life

There’s really no surefire way to prevent the need for long-term care. According to statistics, you may need long-term care at some point in your adult lifetime. You can, however, try to beat the odds by making some simple changes to your life and home. Falls can be a source of debilitating injuries as you get older. Those tricky stairs could lead to a serious fall in the future, so take steps to help yourself age in place at your own home. If you do have steps or stairs, have some secure railings installed on either side to provide support and reduce your risk of falling. You’ll also want to think about fall-proofing your bathroom as time goes on, by installing grab bars in slippery areas. Another simple change you can make is to add better lighting throughout your home. You can swap out to brighter bulbs or add fixtures to ensure areas are lit evenly. Finally, don’t underestimate the impact lifestyle choices can have on your long-term health. Regular exercise and diet can reduce your risk for serious conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and give you a chance for a more independent life.

Research All Your Options for Paying for Care

Paying for long-term care can be a real financial burden, especially if the need comes up unexpectedly. Most American seriously underestimate long-term care expenses, which can run upwards of $100,000 per year if you need to stay in a nursing home. However, you have a decided advantage by choosing to plan ahead. For one, you can research just how much care could cost you, as well as how exactly you can pay for it. If you are in your 50s, for example, you may be able to snag long-term care insurance for much lower monthly payments than someone who is only a few years older than you. When long-term care insurance is not feasible, there are other financial avenues you can include in your long-term care plans. You could pre-pay, plan to receive care from a loved one, or you can get roommates to offset housing costs and allow you to tuck away more funds for care.

Planning for long-term care doesn’t have to be a headache. If you start planning early and going over all your options now, you will have more options to choose from and end up with less stress in the future if you do need some form of long-term care. So, don’t forget to add long-term care to your list of essential retirement planning steps.

Photo Credit: Pexels

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eMKT – Our healthy marketplace is now ready!

eMEDICS.org has just completed its homecare marketplace platform eMKT  and invites medical professionals such as RAI evaluators or specialized nurses to register on eMEDICS.org to offer their services at home.
Several organizations have showed interests using this platform if the number of registered resources is sufficient.
Housekeepers can also register for housekeeping and meal services. Registration is completely free. Service providers can indicate their availability and their hourly rate in order to receive the right requests.
The eMEDICS.org social network, eHSN (eMEDICS Health Social Network) is being finalized. The eMKT platform should be able to integrate with eHSN but also with coreERP, software used by medical organizations, to bring these organizations closer to the medical professionals and patients.

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Swiss spend the most on health care

Swiss spend the most on health care

The Swiss spend more from their own pockets for health care than any other nation, according to a survey for the price comparison website Comparis. Providers of supplementary health insurance are the biggest beneficiaries.

The Comparis survey found that out of CHF80 billion (USD 82 billion) health expenditure in 2016, the Swiss paid CHF24 billion themselves.

Since 2012, expenditure covered directly by households has continued to rise, it says. This includes CHF5.5 billion for retirement home care, CHF2.8 billion in dentists’ bills and 1.6 billion for medicines.

Whereas insurance companies’ revenue from supplementary healthcare premiums has continued to rise, pay-outs under supplementary schemes have risen only moderately. Between 2008 and 2016, revenue from premiums rose by CHF865 million to CHF6.6 billion, whereas health cost reimbursements to clients rose only CHF353 million to CHF4.7 billion, the survey found. The sector therefore made a healthy profit.

Basic health insurance is mandatory in Switzerland. Private companies must all offer the same basic coverage and are not allowed to make a profit on it. Their profits come from the supplementary schemes.

+Read more about health insurance in Switzerland

Economist Pius Gyger, the author of the Comparis report, says the needs of the population go well beyond basic health care coverage, and a high number of Swiss are prepared to pay for supplementary schemes.

But Comparis health insurance expert Felix Schneuwly says insurers need to be innovative, otherwise they may start to lose this lucrative market.

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Switzerland Telemedicine Market is Expected to Reach Over CHF 500 Million by 2022: Research Forecast

Switzerland Telemedicine Market is Expected to Reach Over CHF 500 Million by 2022: Research Forecast

Telemedicine services will be more reliant on cloud-based compared to the web-based as the data or details of every patient is stored on the cloud while treatment. Artificial intelligence will be the future trend in the Tele-Medicine. There will also be more emphasis placed on the use of connected devices which can be continuously monitored at Tele-Medicine Center and required action can be taken. There is a scope that virtual hospitals might come into the picture which will be a central hub and where the patients could be treated via telemedicine.

Companies will enhance their services in order to compete in the market. Medgate will develop more follow-up services for stroke and epilepsy in coming years. Clinical robots are expected to be popular technology in the telemedicine market in future as they will help the specialists to visit their patients regardless of the location. Moreover, the specialists will be able to connect with the patient and X-ray or laboratory reports simultaneously. Personalized telemedicine applications can be made in future for both the patient and the doctor, which will be customized according to the requirements of the customers. Moreover, there will be better integration of EHR software

Radiology has been used effectively in the telemedicine market and fields such as dermatology, mental health and stroke care are also being used heavily. In future, other fields might explore telemedicine further such as psychiatry, neurology and others. Moreover, psychological ailments will become a big challenge for Swiss healthcare which will further increase the demand for tele-psychology.

Analysts at Research Forecast in their latest publication Switzerland Telemedicine Market Forecast to 2022 – By Service Platform (Tele Home & M-Health and Tele Hospital), by Technology Platform (Software and Hardware) and by Clinical Applications (Tele Consultation, Tele Dermatology, Tele Pathology, Tele Neurology and Others) believe that promoting better regulations, providing access to patient’s long term medical records, partnering with universities and corporates offices will aid the telemedicine market.

Switzerland Telemedicine market is expected to register positive CAGR of around 12.4% during the period 2018-2022 in terms of revenue. Providing better data security and adopting different marketing techniques to creating awareness is expected to have positive impact on the overall telemedicine market.

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eMEDICS.org is pleased to announce IT consultancy work with WHO

eMEDICS.org, a YFORM Ltd company, is pleased to announce IT consultancy work with WHO, the World Health Organization. This is part of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). eMEDICS.org will be involved in a pilot project in seven countries to measure compliance with smoke-free legislation and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS), using mobile technology. The use of conventional and crowd sourcing surveys will be deployed to conduct the surveys using a special Mobile App that has been developed for the project enabling offline capabilities. Building capacity of implementing agencies and training data collectors on data collection, data monitoring and preliminary analyses are the keys deliverables of that project.

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Feb 2018 update – coreERP v1.7 available for Swiss home-care organizations and is GDPR compliant!

eMEDICS.org coreERP v1.7 turnkey solution has been successfully completed for the Swiss market. The EMR (Electronic Medical Record / Medical requests) and RAI evaluation processes (RAI MDS and Household assessments) are now fully functional. When the medical staff assess RAI MDS evaluations, performance scales (ADL, IADL, CPS and DRS) as well as the GAD alarms, are automatically generated (on the fly). This helps streamline the decision making. Mental Health PHQ-9 / GAD-07 is being implemented and shall be available in the coming weeks.

We invite Swiss home-care organizations to contact us at admin@emedics.org or +41 75 416 4140 to participate to our pilot projects.  Your organization would take advantage of a substantial gain of productivity in your day to day business (ex: use of Electronic Patient record, fill-in RAI evaluations online, document generation on the fly, such as OPAS…). In exchange, free licenses and support will be provided by eMEDICS.org team in order to meet your expectations and business needs.
coreERP solution is now responsive using the same code for mobile and web, reducing by half any development cost. The solution could also be used in the field while we’re still adjusting the offline capabilities. It has been optimized to run on any type of IT infrastructure. Our framework is open-source which makes our first class solution available to large but also small to medium home-care organizations. Our solution combines quality and competitive pricing over time with a drastic cut in maintenance and operations.

1) Pilots and projects updates:

  • We’re already in discussion with a couple of home-care organizations to start pilot projects.
  • We’re also meeting AVASAD this month, to discuss a potential collaboration.
  • At this stage, we only invite Swiss home-care organizations that are interested by such a solution to contact us for free demos and licenses.
  • The generic international InterRAI solution is scheduled to be supported by Q4 2018. European and North American home-care organizations could still contact us to book a demo and reserve free coreERP licenses.

2) Infrastructure update:

  • coreERP has been tested on shared hosted environments such as InfoManiak and the solution works perfectly fine. This is a huge achievement, allowing small/medium/large home-care associations to significantly reduce their infrastructure expenses and operational costs.
  • InfoManiak infrastructure platform provides a state-of-the-art back-up solution: your data is backed-up daily on a second data center and previous versions could be restored in one click. This is crucial especially when dealing with high sensitive patient data information.
  • It is now GDPR compliant (European General Data Protection Regulation) which makes it the best choice to host our Health oriented software for European organizations.
  • coreERP is also being tested in other countries (OVH and HostGator) and on-premise (LAMPP and WAMPP servers).

3) eMEDICS.org Process automation update:

  • OPAS computations are fully functional providing the LiMA and OPAS estimates on the fly.
  • Approbation workflows are ongoing and should be ready in the coming weeks.
  • The advanced business process automation based on RAI assessments, has been refined and is functional. An updated version including end-to-end automation (from the assessment or the medical request to invoicing) shall be available by Q2, 2018.

4) Other updates:

  • Multilingual module is now available and any language could be supported by filling-in a single source file. coreERP could handle any new language in a week.
  • Activity reports and time sheets are 50% completed.
  • As planning of the visits may require extensive computation, we’ve decided to incorporate coreERP with existing solutions instead of implementing the whole solution ourselves. Several partnerships are currently being discussed.
  • eMEDICS.org Health Care Network (EHC Network): our EHC Network implementation is progressing and will be opened to all physicians, clinics, pharmacies, Home care organizations, hospitals and insurance companies  (with the preservation of medical data of patients), and patients themselves, facilitating the exchange of medical information by Q4 2019. A catalog of forms will be available to medical organizations, which will allow them to set better diagnosis and share data with the patients (patients could also provide health measurements over time).
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February 18, 2018 / Posted by / Feb 2018 update – coreERP v1.7 available for Swiss home-care organizations and is GDPR compliant!