It Takes More Than Love: A Practical Guide to taking Care of an Aging Adult with Anita Beckerman

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Gerontology expert Anita Beckerman discusses her beliefs on the issues facing caretakers of older adults.

Event Date: 05/25/2000.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Senior Vitality Auditorium. Today we are discussing It Takes More Than Love: A Practical Guide to Taking Care of an Aging Adult, with Anita Beckerman, EdD. Anita G. Beckerman, A.R.N.P., C.S., EdD., has more than 20 years of experience in the field of gerontology, both in clinical and academic settings. She is the founder of two continuing education programs in the College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Beckerman is a frequent contributor to journals and an in-demand lecturer in the community on older adulthood. She is the co-author of It Takes More Than Love: A Practical Guide to Taking Care of an Aging Adult.

The opinions given by Dr. Beckerman are hers and hers alone. If you have specific questions or are concerned about your health, please consult your personal physician. This event is for informational purposes only.

Dr. Beckerman, welcome to WebMD Live.

Dr. Beckerman: Thanks for inviting me; I'm looking forward to this hour.

Moderator: In what ways do clinical trials fail to account for the needs of older adults?

Dr. Beckerman: Most of the clinical trials are usually geared to the needs of younger adults, or the participants are younger adults. One example is medication: Most most doses are based on clinical trials with younger, well adults. So the bottom line is that older adults should be started with the lowest dose possible, and that dose should be increased over a longer period of time, so that the normal changes of aging can be taken into account when you want to know how long the drug is going to stay in the body.

Moderator: What types of medications are you referring to?

Dr. Beckerman: Diuretics, hypertensive medication, any kind of antidepressants, many drugs -- I would say all drugs need to be started with the lowest dose possible, and then slowly increased.

Moderator: How can older adults tell if they have an actual malady or their illness is in fact drug-induced?

Dr. Beckerman: If it's something that's new that has happened after taking the drug, you can guess it's due to the drug. Disease usually happens over a period of time, and doesn't happen acutely, although heart attacks can have acute signs and symptoms. Side effects from drugs are experienced in something you haven't had before.

Moderator: What do most people not know about the potential dangers of drugs that they should?

Dr. Beckerman: They don't know that all drugs are drugs. Over the counter, prescription -- these are all drugs. Drugs need to get to their target organ to do their job, but also have to be excreted. As you get older, kidney functions have decreased somewhat, and most drugs are excreted through the kidneys. Older adults practice poly-pharmacy. They take many different drugs, don't get a full list to their health care provider, and don't include what's over the counter. Anti-inflammatories have side-effects. Many drugs given by prescription years ago can now be bought over the counter.

Moderator: How do our bodies process drugs differently as we age?

Dr. Beckerman: Our kidneys are mostly involved in that the blood flow to the kidneys, which has to do with how drugs are excreted, decreases somewhat because our cardiac functions decrease somewhat. So we tend to build up drugs in our body, so a decreased level of functioning of the kidneys, and a decreased level of functioning in the liver, which is responsible for metabolizing drugs, tends to result in an increased level of drugs in the person's body. If you continue the same dose, a person can experience many side effects that they hopefully wouldn't experience if they were given lesser amounts of the drug.

Moderator: This harkens back to proper dosage for older adults?

Dr. Beckerman: An example: Last year, I experienced Hodgkin's lymphoma, and my thyroid was affected by treatment. I was given a prescription for a thyroid supplement, and was given a dose too much to start with. I was told it's the usual dose, but I was an older person and that wasn't taken into account. So, it was decreased to one-third of the normal dose.



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