Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Get Smart: Upcoming Classes and Events

by Emily Anderson

Spring has sprung, and opportunities to learn and find support are blossoming as well! Check out these classes and events to find support, explore resources, and learn new skills.

Tell Your Story
The University of Pittsburgh is looking for people who are caring for someone age 50+ who are willing to share their story and take a survey for a research study. You will receive $15 for your participation in this 45 minute phone conversation. Call 1-866-627-1923 if you would like to participate.

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is 
April 29, 2017, 10am - 2pm
This nationwide event helps you safely remove dangerous expired or unused prescription drugs from your homes. In Allegheny county, call (412) 459-5000 to schedule a pickup with the sheriff's office, or Click here to find a take-back location near you

Orchard Hill Dementia Caregiver Conference
May 6th, 8am-12:30pm
Orchard Hill Church, 2551 Brandt Rd, Wexford
Explore creative and innovative ways to care for a loved one with memory loss. Experience visual arts, creative ideas, and virtual reality demonstrations. Free with a suggested donation of $5. Click here to learn more and register.

Medicare Basics: A Primer for Understanding the Medicare System
May 18th, 12pm-2:30pm
APPRISE, 1 Smithfield St, Downtown Pittsburgh
The first in the APPRISE annual series of seminars, this session will cover eligibility, enrollment, how the parts of Medicare work, and how to compare the options to find what works best for you. Call Bill McKendree at (412) 661-1670 ext645 or email to register.

Sen. Vulakovich's Senior and Disability Resource Expo
May 19th, 10am-1pm
Springdale Veterans Association, 1151 Pittsburgh St, Springdale
Grab some light refreshments while you explore informational booths that cover a variety of resources for the health, safety, and welfare of older adults.

Tough Conversations--Slowing in Aging, Life Transitions, & Taking Car Keys
May 24th, 6pm-7:30pm
IKOR, 1001 Ardmore Blvd, Forest Hills
Join the experts at IKOR to learn ways to navigate difficult conversations that often come up in the aging process. Register for this free workshop by clicking here.

Where to Turn Resource Fair
May 25th, 8am-12:30pm
David L Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown Pittsburgh
Visit this free event to hear from experts about wellness and visit representatives from community organizations. Click here to register for free.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers
May 25th-June 29th, 6:30pm-8pm
Hope House, 183 Shafer Rd, Moon Twp
A class series held once a week for six sessions, this program helps family caregivers reduce stress, improve self-confidence, communicate effectively, balance their lives, and increase their ability to make tough decisions. To register for this free class, call (412) 369-4673 or click here for more information.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

National Drug Take-Back Day is April 29th

by Kristen West

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 29, 2017 from 10AM - 2PM across the nation. Leaving expired, unused, or old prescriptions around the house can be dangerous for many people in the family. Older adults with cognitive problems might become confused and take the wrong medication. Curious children and young adults may try pills they find or share them with friends. Unused pain medications, in particular, can be dangerous for family members that struggle with addiction.

The Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Take-Back Program helps prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs by helping citizens properly dispose of unused prescription medications. There are two ways you can get rid of your old medications:

  1. Deliver unused or old medications to a secure, permanent Drug Take-Back Box in the community. Click here to find a take-back location near you.
  2. In Allegheny county, call (412) 459-5000 to have a representative from the Sheriff's office pick up unwanted medications at home. See the image below for more information.

For more information on Pennsylvania's Prescription Drug Take-Back Program, click here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to Recognize & Prevent Caregiver Burnout

by Kristen West

How are you doing today? Do people ask you how you are holding on as you care for a loved one, do you hide your stress and respond with a standard, pleasant reply?

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion often accompanied by a change in attitude. Burnout can occur when caregivers don't get the help they need, or when they try to do more than they are able. Caregivers who are "burned out" may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Look out for signs like increasing irritation, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, and frequent sickness as well. These may be signals from your body that you are getting worn down.

What Causes Caregiver Burnout? 

Knowing why you are experiencing the emotions you feel is one of the first steps in help alleviate caregiver burnout. These are the most common challenges that you may be experiencing:
  • Role Confusion: When are you a caregiver and when are you a spouse, a child, or just a friend? The change in your role with your loved one can feel confusing or spark feelings of grief.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Often caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. However, improvements may be hard to see with progressive diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. 
  • Lack of Control: Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of money, resources, and skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one's care. 
  • (Too) Great Expectations: Some caregivers expect superhuman feats and angelic patience of themselves, while others believe providing care is their exclusive responsibility and refuse to ask for help. 

How Can You Prevent Burnout?

Burnout is both preventable and fixable. Try some of these steps if you think you are noticing signs of burnout in yourself.
  • Talk to someone your trust about your feelings and frustrations. If you don't feel comfortable sharing with the people in your life, consider attending a support group for caregivers
  • Set realistic standards for your loved one's abilities, know your limits, and turn to others for help. 
  • Don't forget to take care of yourself too! Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity when you are trying to be an effective caregiver for someone else. 
  • Take advantage of respite care services and senior centers. Time apart can you give you both a break while providing you the opportunity to focus on daily household tasks or much needed self-care. 
  • Educate yourself about your loved one's illness so you can provide the most effective care.
  • Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and rest. 
  • Accept your feelings - having negative feelings, such as frustration or anger, is natural and it don't mean you are a bad person or bad caregiver. 

The most important thing to remember in recognizing and preventing caregiver burnout, is accepting inevitable frustrations and being honest about those frustrations. For further reading on caregiver burnout, consider reading these articles from the AARP or Aging Care.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

5 Medications to Use Carefully

Contributed by Taylor Griffith from

A key part of your responsibility as a caretaker is managing your loved one’s medications. Whether you care for an elderly parent, your spouse, child or sibling, there’s no doubt you and their doctors have their best interest in mind. Still, when it comes to medications, it’s important not to take advice blindly.

Many popular pharmaceuticals — especially the ones you see advertised on TV — have a slew of negative side effects. As you care for your loved one, it’s important to watch carefully if they are taking one of these five dangerous types of medications.

1. SGLT2 Inhibitors

Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors, or SGLT2 inhibitors, are a class of Type 2 diabetes medications that prevent glucose from reentering the blood in the kidneys. They have been shown to control blood glucose levels and lower A1C in Type 2 diabetics. The first SGLT2 inhibitor, Invokana, was released in 2013. Other popular SGLT2 inhibitors are Farxiga, Xigduo, Hardiance, Glyxambi and Invokamet.  

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a drug safety communication about Invokana and other SGLT2 inhibitors, warning patients and doctors that the drugs may cause diabetic ketoacidosis.

Other safety concerns the FDA is investigating related to SGLT2 inhibitors include:
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Increased risk of toe and foot amputations
  • Irreversible kidney damage in fetuses
  • Yeast and urinary tract infections
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Bladder problems
  • Breast cancer

2. Blood Thinners

If your loved one is recovering from an accident or surgery, they may be at risk for developing a potentially fatal blood clot. Blood clots can cause stroke, seizure, chest pains, coughing up blood and blood in the vomit or stool.

Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, prevent the blood from clotting, therefore preventing clots from forming. Xarelto is a popular blood thinner, however, recently it’s been linked to uncontrolled internal bleeding, including deadly brain bleeds.

Xarelto can cause these serious symptoms, which may indicate internal bleeding:
  • Bleeding gums
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the stool
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood in vomit
  • Swelling or pain at wound sites
  • Frequent nose bleeds

3. IVC Filters

If your loved one can’t take anticoagulants such as Xarelto, their doctor may implant an inferior vena cava filter instead. IVC filters are medical implants designed to trap blood clots before they reach the heart or lungs, causing strokes or pulmonary embolism. The filter is placed in the inferior vena cava, a vein that circulates blood to the heart and lungs.  

While these devices can save a patient’s life, they also been linked to serious complications, including:
  • IVC perforation
  • Organ perforation
  • Migration, or moving from the implant site
  • Fracture, or breaking apart into multiple pieces

Each of these complications is linked to serious medical conditions, including pulmonary embolism — the exact symptom IVC filters are implanted to prevent.

4. Proton Pump Inhibitors

Doctors prescribe proton pump inhibitors — a class of drugs that reduce the amount of acid in the stomach — to people with acid reflux, heartburn, peptic ulcers, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and other gastric acid conditions. PPIs are popular for patients of any age, but people older than 50 are at particular risk for developing certain side effects.

Clinical studies have linked PPIs to conditions such as:
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart attack
  • Dementia
  • Cognitive decline
  • Pneumonia
  • Bone fractures

As scientists continue to study the drug’s effects, the FDA has warned the public about PPIs such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid and others in 2010, stating the drugs can cause C. difficile infection, low magnesium and a risk of bone fractures at the hip, spine and write.

5. Fluoroquinolones

American doctors dole out more than 26 million prescriptions to fluoroquinolones, or antibiotics, each year. While fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Avelox, Cipro and Levaquin can treat a number of illnesses and infections, the drugs have also been linked to tears and aneurysms of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body.

While your loved one is taking fluoroquinolones, make sure to watch for these signs that could point to severe fluoroquinolone damage:
  • Rash
  • Hearing problems
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures


Taylor Griffith is an award-winning journalist with a background in newspaper, magazine and digital writing. She earned her degree from the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She regularly contributes to, along with other publications.