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Health care-focused resources for seniors and medical community.

The New York Times: Cancer Doctors Cite Risks Of Drinking Alcohol

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alcoholThe New York Times: Cancer Doctors Cite Risks Of Drinking Alcohol

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents many of the nation’s top cancer doctors, is calling attention to the ties between alcohol and cancer. In a statement published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group cites evidence that even light drinking can slightly raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer and increase a common type of esophageal cancer. Heavy drinkers face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers, the group cautions. (Rabin, 11/7)

How To Help Someone Who Is Grieving

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grievingIf you have a friend or loved one who is grieving, it can be difficult to figure out how to bring them comfort. Your actions and words do matter. The smallest gestures can make a profound difference to someone in the grieving process. Although grieving takes time and there’s no way to speed the recovery process, here are some ways to be supportive, courtesy of Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat.

Name names. Don’t be afraid to mention the deceased. It won’t make your friend any sadder, although it may prompt tears. It’s terrible to feel that someone you love must forever be expunged from memory and conversation. Saying how much you’ll miss the person is much better than the perfunctory, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Don’t ask, “How are you?” The answer is obvious—”not good”—and because it’s the same greeting you would offer anyone, it doesn’t acknowledge that your friend has suffered a devastating loss. Instead try, “How are you feeling today?”

Offer hope. People who have gone through grieving often remember that it is the person who offered reassuring hope, the certainty that things will get better, who helped them make the gradual passage from pain to a renewed sense of life. Be careful, though, about being too glib, as doing so may make the bereaved person feel even more isolated. Rather, say something like: “You will grieve for as long as you need to, but you are a strong person, and will find your way through this.” This remark both acknowledges that there is no quick and easy solution and also affirms your confidence that things will improve.

Reach out. Call to express your sympathy. Try to steer clear of such phrases as “It’s God’s will” or “It’s for the best” unless the bereaved person says this first. Your friend or relative may need you even more after the first few weeks and months, when other people may stop calling. Check in every now and then just to say hello (you may find it helpful to put reminders on your calendar). Most bereaved people find it difficult to reach out and need others to take the initiative.

Help out. Don’t just ask if you can “do anything.” That transfers the burden to the bereaved, and he or she may be reluctant to make a request. Instead, be specific when offering help. Bring dinner over, pass on information about funeral arrangements, or answer the phone. Pitch in to clean up the kitchen. Sometimes your help is most valuable later. A lawyer might help answer questions about the estate. A handy person might button up the house as winter approaches.

Assist with meals. Provide hands-on assistance with cooking, and volunteer to help with shopping. For many bereaved persons, particularly widows and widowers, it can be a big adjustment to get accustomed to planning meals, shopping for groceries, and cooking for just one person.

Listen well instead of advising. A sympathetic ear is a wonderful thing. A friend who listens even when the same story is told with little variation is even better. Often, people work through grief and trauma by telling their story over and over. Unless you are asked for your advice, don’t be quick to offer it. Frequently, those who are grieving really wish others would just listen. It’s your understanding—not your advice—that is most sorely needed.

Avoid judgments. Your friend’s life and emotional landscape have changed enormously, possibly forever. You may wish he or she would move on, but you can’t speed the process or even ensure that it happens. Let your friend heal at the pace that feels right and in his or her own manner. “You should cry” or “It’s time to move on” aren’t really helpful directions.

Why Are Older Adults At Risk For Prescription Drug Abuse?

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Elderly adults commonly take two types of medicines that have a high potential for addiction: Opioids and Benzodiazepines.

Most older adults who suffer from prescription drug abuse do so by accident, reports They take more medicine than other age groups.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 3 in 10 people between ages 57 to 85 use at least 5 prescriptions. This increases the risk for mistakes and drug abuse.

Growing older also slows down your body’s ability to absorb and filter medicines. This means that an older adult might become addicted to or have side effects from a prescription drug at a lower dose than a younger adult.

Path to improved health

A person can abuse any type of prescription drug. Elderly adults commonly take 2 types of medicines that have a high potential for addiction.

  • Opioidsare used to control pain. Examples include oxycodone (OxyContin), oxycodone with acetaminophen (Percocet), and hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Vicodin). A person can become addicted if they take an opioid for a long period of time or take too much of an opioid.
  • Benzodiazepinesare used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia. Examples include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and lorazepam (Ativan). A person can become addicted if they take the drug for a long period of time.

Symptoms of prescription drug abuse can be hard to recognize in older adults. This is because they are similar to symptoms of aging. For instance, confusion and memory loss are symptoms of both.

If you care for or spend time with an older adult, be aware of their medicines and behavior. The following are warning signs that someone may be abusing prescription drugs. If they:

  • Get a prescription for the same medicine from two different doctors.
  • Fill a prescription for the same medicine at two different pharmacies.
  • Take more of a medicine than they used to or take more than is instructed on the label.
  • Take the medicine at different times or more often than is instructed on the label.
  • Become more withdrawn or angry.
  • Appear confused or forgetful.
  • Often talk about a medicine.
  • Are afraid to go somewhere without taking a medicine.
  • Are defensive when you ask about a medicine.
  • Make excuses for why they need a medicine.
  • Store “extra” pills in their purse or in their pocket.
  • Sneak or hide medicine.
  • Have been treated for alcohol, drug, or prescription drug abuse in the past.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect that an older adult is abusing a prescription drug, contact their doctor right away. Tell them about your concerns. The doctor will likely make an appointment to evaluate the person. They can diagnose if the problem is prescription drug abuse. The doctor also will help determine treatment.

Treatment options for prescription drug abuse vary by person. It depends on what drug is abused, the degree of addiction, and the risk of having a withdrawal of the drug. Treatment may include counseling, medicine, or both.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Do I take any medicines that could cause a drug interaction?
  • What should I do if I feel like I’ve become dependent on a medicine?
  • What is the best way to organize medicines so I don’t make a mistake?
  • What are the symptoms for prescription drug abuse?
  • How do I know if I need help?