living your best to the end

Vial of LIFE

What is the Vial of LIFE Program It may sound like the fountain of youth, or miracle life-saver in a vial. It is neither. Instead, it’s information about your health care and wishes, stored in your fridge with a fridge sticker to announce its presence. LIFE stands for Lifesaving Information for Emergencies The Vial of LIFE sticker on your fridge alerts Emergency Response Teams (EMS) Paramedics and other health care providers who may come to your home that you have information in your fridge with directions about your health care and wishes. Why Vial of LIFE in the Fridge? In case of fire, your wishes will be preserved. What should be in your Vial of LIFE? There are many templates to help organize and detail your health conditions, concerns, medications and ‘next of kin’ or who to call in the event of an emergency. If you’ve completed Advance Directives such as BestEndings, or have a specific Do Not Revive instructions, a copy can be put with the Vial of LIFE documents. Many’s the time when a medical crisis at home requires emergency services, that too little is known about overall health, health conditions to be aware of (heart, kidney, lung disease or allergies to medicines) to provide proper treatment. A Vial of LIFE sticker on the front door is also recommended Below is a picture of one example of a Vial of LIFE form. To complete follow this link Vial Form Also read: Who’s Important? End of Life Machinery CPR: what does it really mean?...

Medical jargon: even single-syllable words can confound

Who’d’ve thought that simple, one and two-syllable words – which is one of the the criteria for Grade 6 reading level – could cause so much confusion, upset and medication errors. Out of context, even every-day words can confound. Consider these (true) examples: In a maternity unit, expectant mom is thirsty and hungry. When she asked if she could eat or drink anything, nurse, hurrying to the next patient, answered, “only sips and chips.” Later, same nurse saw, with horror, mom eating potato chips, taking sips of a diet soda. To that mom-to-be, those one syllable words didn’t say sips of water and ice chips. Seeing his patient in the wrong hospital unit, Doc says, and patient hears: “We’re going to get you to a different floor.” After doc leaves, worried patient says to nurse, “The floors are so cold. Will I have a blanket on the other floor?” Son, taking his elderly mom to the doctor to have her rash checked out. First visit, no source was identified. Second visit, doctor said rash was static. Until the third visit, 3 months later, when doctor said the words: “the condition of the rash hasn’t changed”, the son had tried to find a fabric softener that’d reduce static in mom’s clothes. Early evening, as I was leaving an office building, one of cleaners in the elevator with me sighed so mournfully I asked if she was ok. “My husband is going for by-pass tomorrow. Last year, the doctor told him to take coated Asprin©. We didn’t understand coated, so he didn’t take it. Now he’s in the hospital.” (Note this...

As we age, do we become too thin-skinned?

In a word: Yep. Our skin thins and gets dry Thin, dry skin often gets itchy. And that can lead to a mess of problems. Hence, the expression: thin-skinned. Perhaps not as talked about as the other issues of aging, but should be – considering how much skin we have. Dr Richard Usatine my fellow Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) is a primary care doc and lead author of The Color Atlas of Family Medicine. A lesson in elder-skincare “Our glands produce less natural oil which leads to dry skin. We scratch and we pick and broken skin can lead to infections. often the backs of our hands and forearms that are first affected.” In addition to the natural aging process, there are factors that influence the thinning of the skin: genetics, lifestyle specifically sun exposure, smoking and alcohol, and some medications can make skin more sensitive. What to do to protect our skin? The good doc offers these tips: Gloves: for gardening, biking, cleaning. Moisturize: doesn’t have to be expensive product. Good time to moisturize is after a bath or shower – which should not be too hot. Gentle cleaning, proper drying and staying dry – including sweaty parts like armpits, folds of skin, groin – can help prevent skin break-down. Keep hydrated: drink more water. Alcohol doesn’t count. Eat properly: good nutrition helps in so many ways Wear a hat: The tops of our heads also need care: skin thins there, too. Use sunscreen and stay out of the sun, especially between those hottest hours 11 – 3pm. Feet: a high-risk area – as those...

Medications: work differently and more dangerously as we age

Drug Use and Seniors 1 in 5 over age 65 are taking 10 or more prescription medications, 1 in 20 are taking 15 more so reports Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). Not included in that total: the number of times a day meds are taken and non-prescription products. Not detailed are medications taken to counteract side effects of medications, and whether medications are being taken properly. That’s lot of chemistry and chemicals acting, reacting and and interacting in our bodies and huge room for error: the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports more than a million (U.S.) hospitalizations and emergency room visits are the result of an ‘adverse event’. Some of the medication errors I’ve heard about, that can lead to serious harm: Directions said: take one when you wake up. 80-year old man nods off during the day, and takes one every time he wakes up. This is only discovered at a family get together when his 3 children realize they’ve each been getting his prescription refilled. Capsules for an ear infection: put in the ear instead of swallowing. Capsule for a puffer wrenched out of puffer-enclosure and swallowed. Take twice a day interpreted as two capsules two times daily taken 15 minutes apart. An Australian study, focusing on why seniors are particularly at risk for medication errors: large quantities of medication, trouble opening the package, trouble swallowing, troubling side effects, and confusion — often caused by medications. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): Choose to Change: A Client-Centered Approach to Alcohol and Medication Use by Older Adults, details outward appearances –  resulting from multiple medications...

Four medications cause most hospitalizations

Blood thinners and diabetes drugs – alone or in combination –  cause the most hospitalizations in older adults. This is a really enlightening report picked up by  New York Times, ‘Well’ editor, Tara Parker Pope. Aspirin, clopidogrel and other antiplatelet drugs that help prevent blood clotting were involved in 13 percent of emergency visits. And just behind them were diabetes drugs taken by mouth, called oral hypoglycemic agents, which were implicated in 11 percent of hospitalizations. Two things from the article that struck me:  The medications were all difficult: they require constant monitoring and adjusting. The other thing that struck me: It’s hard to get it right, and downright dangerous to get it wrong.  It’s very delicate business, making adjustments. All these drugs are commonly prescribed to older adults, and they can be hard to use correctly. One problem they share is a narrow therapeutic index, meaning the line between an effective dose and a hazardous one is thin. The sheer extent to which they are involved in hospitalizations among older people, though, was not expected, said Dr. Dan Budnitz, an author of the study and director of the Medication Safety Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. SafeMedicationUse.ca – The Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada’s(ISMP-Canada) medication incident reporting and learning system for consumer has further warnings about insulin : The consumer had recently picked up some boxes of insulin at a pharmacy. Most of the boxes were correct, but one box contained a fast-acting brand of insulin. No one had noticed that the wrong box was mixed in with the other boxes. The consumer reported...

Myths about aging, proud octogenerians

Jack Pinkus in action at Baycrest Jack Pinkus, retired pharmacist with 17 years on the Board on the Ontario Pharmacists Association opened his educational session at Baycrest by exploding the following myths: • Age will inevitably bring illness • Damage is already done, so why bother taking care of my health • Getting old means losing mental sharpness • Getting old means being sad, lonely and inactive. This was good news to the group aged 70+. He then explained succinctly the difference between normal forgetfulness and signs of dementia: “Everybody forgets their keys. That’s not a problem. That’s normal. It’s when you forget what the keys are for – that’s when you’ve got a problem.” Medication messages specific to getting older: • Aging makes the body more sensitive the effects of medication. • Having trouble with the small type on your prescriptions? Ask your pharmacist for a larger easier to read label. Messages relevant to everyone: • Natural does not mean safe. The worst places to store medication are: • Bathroom: humidity affects chemistry. • Fridge (unless specifically indicated): cold and humidity affects chemistry • Window Sill: sunlight affects chemistry. We’re always instructed by have a list of what we’re taking. I puzzled about what to use when making and keeping up a list of meds: Brand or generic (not to be confused with what happens when brand names become generic) I mean, how much easier to say Prozac (nothing to disclose) than Fluoxetine Hcl. The answer: Wise to have both, especially traveling outside Canada when brand names may be different. During the session, another example of how much...