Last week our Stillman and Friedland post covered two main areas for seniors who want to maintain or improve their health even after sustaining accidental injuries. Our advice is aimed primarily at our accidental injury clients—but our advice is helpful for all seniors who want to maintain their health and independence. We overviewed these key topics:
• Polypharmy, taking 10 or more medications, or more than you need
• Diet for healing
In this post we will present practical strategies and dive into some details for taking action to avoid or resolve polypharmy. As we always say, the patient must work in partnership with health professionals to regain health and maximal function after a trauma.
We suggest that you first tackle the issue of polypharmy while you are hospitalized. Make sure any drugs you already take appear on your hospital chart. Be aware of the purpose and side effects of additional drugs you are prescribed. If you think there may be a problem, politely but assertively question your doctor. Respect the expertise of your care provider, but if you feel that your questions remain unanswered, or are brushed aside, you have every right to find someone who will listen and take the time to answer your concerns. The nursing staff can help answer many questions or help you find someone else who will.
Once you are out of the hospital, your best bet is to have a sympathetic physician (ideally your PCP) who will help you reduce the types and dosages of meds that you are taking. As your treatment progresses, you should need fewer medications. If you are getting worse, you need to resolve an issue, not mask it with pain killers. Over-medication is more common when patients see a number of specialists and there is insufficient coordination among doctors. Make sure your PCP is overseeing all your medications, including over-the-counter drugs. Even seemingly harmless OTC drugs can affect absorption of other meds or cause a cross reaction.
One strategy you may find helpful is to use the WebMD online app to enter all your medications (again including OTC drugs), and check for problematic drug interactions. If you end up with conflicting meds, take a printout to your PCP and let him or her referee your list with your other care providers. Another resource you might want to use is your pharmacist. Pharmacists are trained in dosages and cross-reactions; if your list of meds looks too long, they should clarify prescription recommendations with the doctor by phone or email.
If you are overwhelmed by the aftermath of trauma—and even if you are coping—your best bet is to always bring a “care partner” to doctor visits. Whether your care partner is a spouse, brother or sister or good friend they can help you remember what the doctor tells you, whether they record the conversation on a cell phone or take notes. The doctor should give you a printed summary of your visit, and you should keep a file for these reports, but they will be brief. Your care partner can help you add details so you can best follow your treatment regime.
Another aid is a brief journal of your recovery. Make notes if a change in your regimen, whether in meds or physical therapy causes an improvement or a setback. Bring your journal to doctor visits so they have a clear record of your progress. This may also be helpful in your case to document pain and suffering, but it should also help you see your progress in healing.
We cannot make this point enough:
• Quit smoking! You will heal better and faster, and require less medication
In a previous post, we noted that many patients get screened for other issues while undergoing treatment for injuries. The most likely issue patients will be diagnosed with is high blood sugar or Type II diabetes, including related problems such as high blood pressure and heart problems. Diabetes rates for Tennesseans are among the highest in the U.S. While this issue falls squarely in the area of diet, we will discuss it here also because once many patients receive a diabetes diagnosis they begin an increasing regimen of medications. Multiple medications are inevitable once you eat what you want and use insulin to “mop up” your excesses.
• Only changing your diet will prevent increasing medications, side effects and ill health.
In our next post we will detail key diet issues for seniors and accident recovery so you can see your way to optimal recovery.
Because we care…