The Dominoes of Medication – Avoid the Tipping Point

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Follow these steps to prevent sudden confusion in the hospital like a series of falling dominoes.

Growing up I played countless games of Dominoes with my grandparents. And of course, the other fun thing to do with Dominoes is line them up and watch them fall is some funky pattern.

Hospitalization and memory or behavior changes

Many times in my career I have seen people experience a sudden decline in their health, often around a hospitalization. The general theme that I see far too often resembles falling dominoes and goes something like this:

  • Someone has a reason to go to the hospital
  • A medication is given that makes the person confused
  • An assumption is make this person has some form of dementia
  • That diagnosis is added to the record
  • With the confusion, behaviors change (crying out, pulling at IV’s, getting out of bed)
    • By the way, this is very alarming for the family and friends
  • More medications are added to control the behaviors
  • The person now truly looks like someone with advanced dementia
    • Unable to safely walk
    • Unable to clearly think and answer questions
    • Unable to care for him/herself
  • The person cannot return home and to the independent life led before the hospitalization
  • The person is sent on to rehabilitation or assisted living or skilled nursing care
  • The diagnoses and the medication go with them and are continued for the rest of life

In this scenario there might have been some early cognitive decline (early signs of some sort of dementia). The move to the unfamiliar environment with the scurry of activity and then the altered schedule can ‘unmask’ that early dementia and make it seem suddenly incredibly worse. Add an infection or painful condition, and this is even worse still. It could also be a sign of delirium (a short term confused state). That DOES NOT mean this confused state is the way this person will stay. Some of the best actions at this point are to dim the lights, quiet the person’s room, keep someone dear close by to assure the person that all is ok. This quieter reassuring environment can help reduce the confusion and behavior changes.

Elective procedures

Another all-to-familiar scenario is similar:

  • A person has an elective procedure
  • Part of the sedation and anesthesia for the procedure makes the person confused and disoriented
  • Any cries out or uncoordinated behaviors are interpreted as pain
  • More pain medication is given
  • When the person goes to rehabilitation or back home to recover, a schedule pain regimen is included
  • Rather than moving and doing all of the exercises that will enable rapid and full recovery, the person is too sedated from the pain medication and sleeps
  • The lack of post procedure stretching, movement, and exercises prescribed by physical therapy limit the range of motion and full recovery from the procedure
  • For the rest of life the person has limited use of the limb/joint due to lack of use right after the procedure

How can you better navigate these scenarios?

If there have been any signs of memory changes, know that you might see this sudden confusion.  Also, it seems the more critical the admission the higher the risk of delirium. (So, accidents, being in critical care, being placed on a ventilator, and such carry the higher risk).

Talk with the healthcare team about taking the following steps:

  • Dim the lights
  • Have a private room/space that stays as quiet as possible
  • Keep someone reassuring nearby
  • Keep glasses and hearing aids on to help with orientation
  • Have a clock and date information visible
  • Assure there is no infection (can cause confusion and behavior changes)
  • The healthcare team can make sure no medications are being used that can alter thinking.
  • If there is a sudden change in your loved one, stay calm. Delirium goes away with time and with these calming steps.
  • Ask for the minimum amount of pain medication to be given to limit the associated confusion and sedation.

The goal is to take care of the problem that led to the hospitalization without delirium or other confusion. Let those dominoes say standing.

For more information about delirium and steps you can take to prevent or resolve it, contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

How confusing can God be to people who have never heard about Him? I was at a conference yesterday where a speaker quipped in reference to Jesus, ‘and who knows what this guy does.’ He was trying to be funny. It was a medical type of conference, not a religious conference. But it struck me as a sentiment that is likely true for a lot of people.

1 Corinthians 14:33a ESV

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

David and other Psalm writers struggled to understand.

Psalm 119:169 ESV

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word!

Psalm 119:34 ESV

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

What would you say to someone who finds the whole concept of God confusing?

Romans 3:21-24 MSG

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

In these confusing times, may the message, hope, and peace of Jesus Christ bring clarity and comfort.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Blessings,

Michelle

No U-turn available

When a U-turn is not available – end-of-life care

No U-turn available
Supportive options when it’s time for end-of-life care.

Now we turn to end-of-life care.  Last blog we talked about the U-turns available in your life and health. These can help you feel better and live healthier. We learned you can still make changes that have a positive impact on your overall health.

What about when a U-turn is not available?

What about when you get that diagnosis of:

The U-turn is not available.

We can’t stop it. We won’t be able to turn it around. There are a number of conditions that at this moment have no cure or way to get rid of them.

When we run out of options, then the end of life becomes our focus. This is peaceful for some. It is frightening and a huge struggle for others. It impacts not only the person diagnosed but also all of their friends and family. Each person involved deals with a number of feelings during this time. There can be guilt, fear, conflict, regret, and grief, among others.

The support of others, education about what is happening, and sources of comfort are critical.

Resources for end-of-life

Following are some resources for everyone involved in end-of-life care.

  • Support groups – There are support groups for most common diagnoses, for people with the diagnosis and for caregivers and family members, and for various stages of the condition.
  • Caregiver stress and burden – Caring for a loved one near the end of life can be emotionally and physically exhausting. There are many resources that provide assistance (such as in-home care agencies) or respite (short term stays while the caregiver takes a break).
  • Caregiver care – A caregiver can’t fully care for their loved one if they don’t also take care of themselves. Emotional, physical, and spiritual health need attention during this demanding time.
  • Resources – Your community will have various agencies available to provide numerous sources of help. These include direct healthcare, legal guidance, financial aid, spiritual support, placement options, and more. If the person nearing end-of-life is over age 65, your local Agency on Aging could be a valuable source of lists of the resources available in your area.
  • Palliative care – This is care that is focused on comfort and support to accomplish goals toward the end of life.
    • Hospice is one form of palliative care. Your hospice organization can support you, provide education about current and future changes, and help you with preparation for all involved.

When the end-of-life can be anticipated (vs suddenly taken), there is an opportunity to prepare and fully live those final months or days.

For more information about end-of-life options, contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

What’s different about the people that find peace in the end of life?

Romans 6:23 ESV

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This tells us that death of this life is not he end. It is only the beginning of eternity. What does that mean to you? Is it really true?

John 3:16 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The hope we can take through those seasons of palliative care and hospice is the result of anticipating the end of this life and moving on to eternal life.

John 5:24 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

If this life is just the preamble to a life of eternity with Christ, then death loses its sting.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV

“Where, O death, is your victory?

    Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray you find hope and peace as you ponder this perspective of death.

Blessings,

Michelle

Are you meds making your memory better or worse?

Your Medications and Your Memory – making things better or worse?

Are you meds making your memory better or worse?
Memory

Do you ever feel like your memory is slipping? Are you getting forgetful?

Prescription Medications and Memory

Which of your medicines is helping preserve your memory? There are several medical conditions that can make your memory worse. The medicines that treat those conditions then help preserve your memory. Some examples include medicines for heart disease, seizures, blood thinners, asthma inhalers, or emphysema and bronchitis inhalers. Oxygen is a common theme with many of these medications. If you have a medical condition that could decrease the oxygen getting to your brain, this could worsen your memory.

Which of your medicines is actually making your memory worse? Unfortunately, there are many medications that can do this. Any medication that can make you sleepy or slow your thinking can make it harder to remember things. Any medicine that impacts how your brain functions can alter clear thinking. This does not mean all of these medications should be avoided. It does mean to not assume you have dementia when you have foggy thinking while on these medications. There are many examples; some common ones are medications for pain, anxiety, and depression. Anticholinergic, or very drying, medicines cloud your thinking. Recently, statin medications for cholesterol have also been associated with memory impairment.

There are currently two classes of medicines approved for use in Alzheimer’s Disease. For many medical conditions, once diagnosed, you are prescribed a medication(s) to treat that condition. This is not as simple with the dementia medications. They do NOT cure or prevent dementia. They do NOT help all people with dementia. The best impact they have is to slow the progression of dementia, and again, not everyone who takes them will have this result. They have cholinergic side effects that include nausea and diarrhea. If they are stopped after they have been taken, there can be a rapid decline in the dementia. It is not known if the decline is to the point the person would have been if they had not taken the medicine, or if it is an even sharper decline. So there is much to discuss with your physician and healthcare team before deciding to take these medicines.

How about vitamins?

Vitamins are perfectly safe, right? The more the better, right? For many vitamins, taking more than you need is just a waste; your body gets rid of what it doesn’t need. But some other vitamins are not easily cleared, and too much can cause problems. Vitamin E is a vitamin that has been studied to see if it can help with memory. Although some studies have had mixed results, there is no evidence that vitamin E can prevent dementia. There is some data that suggests it might help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. But, there have also been reports of increased risk of death with vitamin E. This is because it can interact with several medications, especially those that can cause bleeding such as medicines that prevent clots. It is also one of the vitamins that the body can’t easily expel, so it is possible to get too much.

Vitamin B12 is another that has been studied.  If your vitamin level is low, then vitamin B12 can help.  However, if your B12 level is normal  supplements will not help.

The best way to get vitamins is through your diet.

And what about herbal remedies, natural remedies, or supplements?

There have been some studies looking at gingko biloba. It does not appear to prevent Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. There is some data that suggests it might help stabilize dementia. In particular, some studies show that it can help stabilize mood. Healthy people who take gingko report feeling more alert. However, there are several medication interactions to consider before you take this. It can increase risk of bleeding and can impact blood sugar control if you have diabetes.

Other substances that will change your ability to think clearly are alcohol, marijuana, and illicit substances. They may not be prescribed (yet), but they can definitely impact how sharply you think. Include these when you talk with your physician and your pharmacist about your medicines.

Some medications can help preserve your memory, and some medications can make your memory worse. Vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and herbal remedies all should be considered medications. Share all that you take with your primary care provider and your pharmacist. That will allow them to make sure there are no medicines or interactions that are negatively changing your memory.

For more information about your medications and your memory, please contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Just as medication can cloud our thinking and memory, what can cloud our spiritual life? Do you ever feel that you are just not fully connected with God? Does it ever feel like something is clouding the connection? Or do you find it’s easier to just ignore the connection?

In my life the most common culprits are:

  • To-do lists
  • Crazy schedules
  • Worries

Martha got caught up in similar tasks. She was fretting so much about hosting Jesus that she failed to experience Jesus.

Luke 10:38-42 ESV

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

There are several verses that help us realign our thoughts and hearts.

Romans 12:2 ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

1 John 2:17 ESV

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

To use a sports analogy, keep your eyes up and focused on the long game. Daily struggles become easier to navigate when your focus is on God. He will lead you step by step according to His plan for you.

For it is impossible to be in the presence of Jesus and not be changed.  

– Joanne Weaver

This might sound contrite, but truly give your day to Him, keep your focus on Him, and see what happens.

Blessings,

Michelle

Life Transitions = Depression Risk

car-clip-art-879As my son returns to college I am fighting tears and happy at the same time. It is such a big adjustment to be away from him for several weeks at a time. I am sitting here thinking about the big impact of life transitions. We all experience them.

It is common knowledge that loss of a loved one and tragedies can increase risk of depression.

Moving, marriage, child moving out, job loss, retirement, and functional changes can increase risk of depression.

Diagnosis with a chronic illness can increase risk of depression.

As age increases, these life transitions can become more frequent.

When not recognized and addressed, depression can make you feel tired with too little energy, make it hard to concentrate and cause you to lose interest in things that you used to enjoy. It can also lead to you feeling sad and hopeless.

Depression is NOT a normal part of aging.

You do NOT have to just tolerate it and think this is your new normal.

Depression does NOT mean you have done something wrong.

There is help, and there is hope! Effective depression treatment usually requires support from people and medications. Medications that treat depression take about 8 weeks to work, so please be patient and take them every day until they work.

To further complicate things, depression is common in someone experiencing memory decline. As stated above, depression makes it harder to concentrate and remember. Cognitive or memory decline often leads to depression as the decline is recognized. Professional diagnosis and treatment is imperative to sort through what is causing what symptoms and the best course of action.

Remember, you do not have to live with depression.

If you’re interested in a depression screening, contact www.medsmash.com.

Biblical Application

If you are depressed, are you a bad person? NO!

Are you a weak Christian? NO!

Have you done something wrong? NO!

Throughout the Bible there are stories of people dealing with difficult situations, life transitions, illnesses, chronic problems. These include David and Paul and Joseph. You are not alone.

Also found throughout the Bible are messages about joy and hope. You have an eternal source of this joy and hope.

I believe part of God’s design for helping you through these difficult times is medical and psychological treatment. God gave these abilities and resources to your treatment team for your benefit.

Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

The Lord is my strength and shield.

I trust him with all my heart.

He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.

I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Hebrews 6:19 (CEV)

This hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls. In fact, hope reaches behind the curtain and into the most holy place.

Romans 12:12 (NLT)

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

I’ll be praying you find the eternal joy that is yours in Christ. And I encourage you to seek God’s blessing through treatment by your healthcare providers.

Blessings,

Michelle