From Mom to Mama: My Experiences in Long Distance Caregiving

altshul headshotSara Altshul
AGS Staff Writer

My brother Jake and I aren’t especially close in anything except age – we’re just 18 months apart. We share few commonalities, except on matters of décor, fine food, and wine. But on one very important matter, we cooperated and came together in a way we never had before, or in fact, have since – taking care of our mother in her final years.

Beside our vastly different personalities and viewpoints, we had our challenges: it was just the two of us, we lived 150 miles apart, and we both had demanding, full-time jobs. And I was the single mother of two adolescent boys. But we managed. We adopted an oddly supportive and cooperative approach, splitting tasks in ways that worked for us. Together, when the time came that Mom could no longer manage alone, we moved her from Florida to live with Jake on eastern Long Island, and I drove from western New Jersey to help out on weekends. When Mom needed full-time care, we found a good nursing home a few miles from Jake’s house. He visited her daily, and the kids and I continued our weekend visits up until her death several months later.

When I remarried four years after Mom passed, I was delighted to discover that I’d gotten myself a magnificent mother-in-law. She was an energetic 82 when we married, a tiny truly Italian mama of seven whose accent was thick as polenta, despite her many decades living in this country. She cooked, she gardened, she babysat her grandchildren, she kept a keen eye on her Brooklyn neighbors, and she danced the Tarantella at our wedding. Sweeter and more nurturing than my own mother had been, we took to each other the moment we met, and even now, 15 years later, I feel like I got a second chance at being mothered. Continue reading

Have You Been a Victim of a Financial Scam?

Syed picQuratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine,
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics,
Emory University School of Medicine

It’s a Saturday morning and Ms. Edwards is sitting on her recliner enjoying her cup of coffee when the phone rings. She picks up the phone and hears a distant but upset voice calling out, “Grandma!”

“Oh, is it Karen?” Ms. Edwards asks. “Yes, Grandma. I have been kidnapped in South Africa. They’ll kill me unless you send $10,000 within 24 hours. And please, do not tell Mom or Dad, or anyone else, or I’ll be dead,” the voice pleads.

The voice on the other line gives an account number where the money needs to be wired, and the line is disconnected before Ms. Edwards can ask any questions. Extremely concerned about the safety of her beloved granddaughter, Ms. Edwards drives to the bank immediately and authorizes a wire transfer for $10,000.

Three days later, Karen calls to check in on her grandmother and is shocked to hear about the phone call. Karen tells her that she has been busy studying for school the past few weeks and has never been to South Africa.

Ms. Edwards is not alone. One in five older adults in the United States has been a victim of financial scams and exploitation.

Below are some tips to help you stay informed and avoid getting involved in a scam: Continue reading

Prevent Pneumonia – Get Vaccinated!

Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Most people are aware of the flu vaccine. Fewer know that there is another important vaccine available – to prevent pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the lungs. There is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults who are 65 years old or above.

We’ve reviewed how to prevent pneumonia before, but here is some more information on why older adults should consider getting vaccinated as a way to prevent pneumonia.

Vaccines to prevent pneumonia are called pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumococcal pneumonia, a very common cause of bacterial pneumonia.

Two types of pneumococcal vaccines are currently available to prevent pneumonia in older adults.

  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®) and
  • Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax®)

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Tips on Preventing Pneumonia in Older Adults

Shah headshot

Krupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry





What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the lungs.

Why Should Older Adults be Aware of Pneumonia?

Older adults are more likely to have pneumonia than younger people. The chances of having both disability and disease increases with age, and which also increases the risk of getting pneumonia.

Research has shown that there is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults. In fact, the majority of all deaths from pneumonia occur in people who are above the age of 65 years.

Let’s be informed!

Below are some proactive steps that you can take to prevent yourself or a loved one from getting pneumonia.

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The 2015 Updated AGS Beers Criteria: What’s New

Donna-Fick headshotTodd-Semla headshot

Donna M. Fick, PhD, RN, GCNS-BC, FGSA, FAAN

Todd P. Semla, PharmD, MS, AGSF

Co-Chairs of the 2015 Updated AGS Beers Criteria Expert Panel




Today, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) released its 2015 Updated Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. For more than 20 years, the Beers Criteria have served as a valued resource for healthcare professionals about the safety of prescribing medications to older adults. In fact, the AGS Beers Criteria have become one of the most frequently used reference tools in the field of geriatrics. The AGS Beers Criteria were previously updated in 2012.

How We Updated the Beers Criteria
The 2015 Updated AGS Beers Criteria reflect work done by a panel of 13 geriatrics experts convened by the AGS. The panel searched for clinical trials and research studies since the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria were issued, and found more than 20,000 results! From this pool, our team reviewed more than 6,700 studies. From there, we were able to identify more than 40 potentially problematic medications or classes of medications, which we organized into five lists. While these lists aren’t exhaustive, they can be very helpful as conversation-starters between older adults and their healthcare providers about what treatment options work best from one individual to the next.

What’s New?
In addition to updating two lists of medications that may be potentially harmful for people aged 65 and older who are not receiving palliative or hospice care, the 2015 Updated AGS Beers Criteria now contain:

  • Separate guidance on avoiding 13 combinations of medications known to cause harmful “drug-drug interactions.” Some medications may be inappropriate when prescribed together because they can increase an older adult’s risk for falls, fractures, or urinary incontinence, for example.
  • A list of 20 potentially problematic medications to avoid or for which doses should be adjusted depending on an older person’s kidney function. These medications could raise risks for problems such as nausea, diarrhea, bleeding, problems affecting the brain and nervous system, and changes in mental well-being and bone marrow toxicity (a condition in which bone marrow makes fewer blood cells).
  • Three new medications and two new “classes” of medications added to the Criteria. An example of a new class of medication includes the proton-pump inhibitors that some people take for acid reflux or stomach ulcers. Recent studies have linked these medications to an increased risk for bone loss, fractures, and serious bacterial infections, which is why they were added to the 2015 AGS Beers Criteria.

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