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Ten questions from caregivers

We had our Primary Care physicians and providers answer ten frequently asked questions from caregivers.

Taking care of others is a rewarding job. Whether they are newborns or elderly parents, each comes with a unique challenge. We polled several of our patients’ caregivers to compile the top ten questions, then had our physicians take a moment to answer them. Here are our interesting results!

How do I balance my personal needs with those of my aging parents?

Chris Hunter, PA-C, a Physician Assistant at think, responded, “Balancing your personal needs with caring for your aging parents is critical to maintaining your own physical and mental health and that of your parents. If you need a break from caring for your parents and don’t have family or friends to help, consider reaching out to your local church or the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. You can also ask at your parent’s next doctor’s appointment if think’s social services could assist with finding some respite care resources for you.

Is it smart to schedule multiple procedures in one visit so I don’t have to make more trips?

When should I ask questions about my loved one’s care?

Dr. Margo Anderson-Fowler, MD, a Family Physician at think, weighed in on this question, “When you have a question!” She added, “To provide proper care, caregivers have to have the answers they need and there is never a bad time to ask questions… for heaven’s sakes, there is never a bad question! So, ask them when you are here for a doctor’s visit, or call your doctor’s office number and speak with their nurse.

It seems like the medications my parents are taking makes their condition worse. What should I do?

Dr. Austin Dudzinski, PharmD, a Clinical Pharmacist at think, commented “Medications can be tricky and it’s challenging to prescribe the correct medication and dosage without accurate and timely feedback. By all means, whenever a patient’s medications may seem wrong or may seem to make the condition worse, contact us. We can work with you and your doctor to determine a different approach or be able to confirm/validate the medication regime is correct and whether or not the effects will level out.”

Would it make sense for me to learn CPR and how to use some diagnostic equipment like a blood pressure cuff?

“Basic CPR and First Aid is a skill everyone should know–even if you don’t provide direct care,” confirmed Dr. Anna Maio, MD, an Internal Medicine physician at think. She added, “National Safety Council’s Nebraska Chapter offers a comprehensive First Aid and CPR course.” “Having the training and some simple diagnostic equipment can provide a level of confidence when caring for a loved one, but it should never substitute for medical care. If there is any doubt about your loved one’s condition, contact their doctor’s office.”

I have trouble keeping my mother interested in anything for an extended period of time and it’s frustrating. Any tips or tricks to getting and keeping seniors engaged?

Dr. Becky Reilly, MD, our Geriatric Medicine physician, replied, “If your mother has any memory issues, keeping her on one task can be very difficult. If she does not, then allowing her to choose an activity, or doing something she enjoyed in the past may be helpful. Adult coloring books, music (and dancing!), as well as reading and reviewing old photographs are some favorite activities. There are adult day centers in the metro area that provide respite for caregivers by having the senior there for a few hours per day, a day or more per week, with programming to keep the senior stimulated and involved.”

What activities do you think would be appropriate for my parents and I to get involved in? My parents are in their late 70’s and I’m in my late 50’s.

Chris Jeffrey, MD, a Family Medicine physician at think recommends reaching out to your nearby senior center. “There are a wide range of classes, activities and events that are perfect for older people. The YMCA offers many classes and activities for seniors. A YMCA membership is very affordable and they do offer financial assistance if needed. Depending on your parents and your abilities, you may benefit from walking clubs or even bicycling. Omaha has some very nice bike paths that are easily accessible.” Added Dr. Jeffery.

It seems like my father gets more agitated in the evening and it’s become difficult to manage our evening chores without us ending up in a huge argument. What can I do?

Dr. Susan Scholer, Geriatric and Internal Medicine, suggests “It may be early onset dementia or what some call Sundowning Syndrome–a common occurrence for older adults or people with impaired cognitive abilities. Try to limit stimulus in the afternoon or early evening, encourage rest (naps) and try to maintain structure throughout the day. It also helps to keep a light on in the early evening. If you suspect your father may have Sundowning Syndrome, be sure to discuss it with your physician.”

My father drinks one beer every evening after dinner. He’s done this for 50 years. He recently was diagnosed with hypertension and I’m afraid the beer is partially responsible. Do you think this is something I should discuss with his Internal Medicine physician?

Dr. Bill Weeks, a Family Medicine physician at think weighed in on this question. “A beer or glass of wine may help reduce the risk of heart disease. But, since he has already been diagnosed with Hypertension, it’s best to seek the advice of his physician–only after a complete workup is performed. In most cases, studies have shown that people in good health who drank one drink per day or less, showed less incidents of heart attacks, heart failure and stroke compared to non-drinkers. Drinking in moderation is the factor here. Heavy drinking has direct correlation to heart diseases.”  

This isn’t necessarily a question from a caregiver unless caring for myself qualifies me. I’m 32, male and have never had a Primary Care doctor. I’m healthy and rarely even get colds let alone anything medically serious. Do I really need a Primary Care physician?

Dr. Erika Rothgeb, MD, A Family Medicine physician at think responded, “As a person ages, their body will begin to require more and more maintenance. I recommend annual physical examinations. Routine exams helps build rapport and trust with your doctor and helps your physician identify and maintain a health baseline. And, when/if something does arise, your doctor has your medical history and can quickly diagnose and treat your issue. Additionally, most insurance plans view annual examinations as preventive healthcare and cover costs without deductibles or copays. So, my recommendation is to establish care with a Primary Care doctor today.”

Taking care of others.

Taking care of others can be a thankless job. But, the rewards outweigh the heartache and frustration of caring for someone. Be kind to yourself and always ask for help if you need it. There are many support services available for little to no cost and can be invaluable when you feel stretched thin. Lastly, Friday, February 18 is National Caregivers Day. Take a moment to stop and acknowledge your hard work and sacrifices to care for your loved one–especially on this day. Thank you for your service!

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