Caregivers and Health in Aging Resources

Having been a caregiver for my seriously ill mother and father in their later years, I know first-hand how truly gratifying it is to provide this kind of care.  However, I also know how hard it can be.

If you are among the more than 43 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers for older friends or family members, you know how much time and effort this kind of care requires.  Caregiving for an older adult can involve so many things—from helping them get in and out of bed, dress, navigate stairs, eat, bathe and use the toilet, to providing transportation, getting groceries, preparing meals, managing finances, and giving medications.  Along with all of these everyday tasks, caregivers also need to figure out how to work with healthcare providers and government agencies to ensure their loved ones get the medical care they need and the health benefits to which they’re entitled.  All with no compensation, except the satisfaction of helping an older family member, friend or neighbor.

Not surprisingly, caregivers need help and support too.

One of the missions of the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging is to provide health information to older adults and those who care for them.  The Foundation has a portfolio of resources on Health in Aging that we hope will be helpful to caregivers.  Resources such as Caregiving How To’s, Tip Sheets, and information on managing specific health problems that are unique to older adults.

While providing information is important, it is also important to learn from one another, through shared stories, experiences, and feedback.  Please feel free to leave us a comment below and share your caregiving experiences.   Or let us know what you found most helpful on our website, or what you wish you had more help, advice, or support with.

Together we can work to provide the older adults we care about with the best care we can.

Blogging for National Healthcare Decisions Day: A Rally for Our Loved Ones and Ourselves

NOTE: In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), April 16, I’m taking a break from blogging this week and spending my writing time with my loved ones.  I hope that this guest post, by Nathan Kottkamp, Founder and Chair of NHDD, will inspire you to think about the conversations we should all be having with our own loved ones about an uncomfortable but important topic – planning for when we die.

Are you one of the 80% of Americans who haven’t completed an Advanced Directive yet? We’ve all struggled with how to get started on this topic – and there are plenty of reasons why we resist:

  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Not sure how to start
  • Don’t know what’s legally binding
  • Worried I’ll hurt someone’s feelings
  • Just haven’t had the time to do it

That’s why we recognize April 16 as National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) – a movement designed to inspire, educate, and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.  Put another way, NHDD is a day for all adults to mark their calendars, have the talk, and document the talk with an advance directive.

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Beers Criteria

A century ago, the average American could expect to live 50 years or so.  Today, we can expect to live nearly 80. That’s a big jump. What contributed to that big jump in longevity? A lot of things — including the development of medications that prevent and treat serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. In addition to all the good they can do, though, drugs can also cause serious side effects and interact with one another in potentially harmful ways. That’s why weighing a medication’s benefits against the risks it poses is so important. It’s particularly important in later life, because age-related physical changes put older adults at particularly high  risk of  drug side effects and other “adverse drug events.”

To help healthcare providers safely prescribe medications for older adults, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) recently revised, updated and expanded the Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. The criteria were first published by the late geriatrician Mark Beers, MD, and other experts in 1991, and were revised in 1997 and 2003. They have long been the leading source of information about safe prescribing for adults 65 and older.

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When my elderly parents fell ill in the early 1980s—my father suffering the second of two debilitating strokes, and my mother, from severe heart disease—I decided to have them come live with me so I could look after them. It was gratifying and, given their complex health problems,  challenging. Because I was working in the field of geriatrics—the branch of healthcare that focuses on the care of older people—I knew that older adults have unique care needs. So I learned as much as I could about my parents’ conditions and, with the help of a wonderful interdisciplinary healthcare team, was able to ensure they got the care they needed.

As we grow older, we tend to have more complex health problems. We’re more likely to have multiple illnesses. Our symptoms may differ from those of younger people. We may respond differently to medications. We may need to take several medications and certain drugs, taken together, may cause side effects or interact in harmful ways.

Because older adults’ health issues are unique, we at the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging are committed to helping older people and their caregivers get the information they need about health and health issues in later life, and how to manage them.  That’s why we developed this new website—  All of the content on Health in Aging is reviewed by healthcare professionals who are members of the American Geriatrics Society and  experts in caring for older people.

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