Aging Adult Care with Anita Beckerman (cont.)

Moderator: What about forms of abuse by elderly adults? Either through emotional abuse toward caregivers, or perhaps by abusing medications?

Dr. Beckerman: Emotional abuse to their caregivers -- that is frequent. Take an example of a parent moving in with the child, and the parent becomes very demanding with certain foods and schedules. That can be overwhelming to the caregiver, and what needs to be done here is open communication, and a contract set up where "I can't be here all the time for you, can't do it your way, so can we get to a compromise?" And not to feel guilty if things cannot be exactly the way they were before. Older people practicing abuse happens more frequently in an institution, where if they are in pain they will hoard pain pills, so when they feel a lot of pain, they can take them. Elderly people abusing alcohol -- many times, this happens when the person is living alone. Family members have died, their spouses have died, or their children live some distance. That does happen.

Moderator: How common is suicide amongst the elderly?

Dr. Beckerman: It does exist, and when you have the feeling, with the symptoms and signs of depression, find out if there are suicidal thoughts or attempts. When someone is alone and experiencing a deep sadness because of a loss, they're much at risk for taking their own life, and it does happen. You have to be aware of changes in the person's emotional behavior or thought. If they've had a significant weight loss or gain, too much sleep or too little sleep, irritability, thinking process, losing interest in themselves and not dressing the way they used to -- do they have suicidal thoughts? Are they hoarding pills in their home, so they can take an overdose?

Moderator: What are some good ways to stay active and interested as an aged adult?

Dr. Beckerman: There are many exercises they can do, but make sure before they start to have clearance from a health care provider. Older adults need to feel needed within society, and society tends to feel that older adults aren't contributing participants. There are older adults who live at home, and can make phone calls to other older adults in the local community. This is a wonderful way to feel needed. There are schools with intergenerational programs, where they bring older adults in nursing homes into the school. Children learn about the older adult by being involved with them, and interacting with them. Other volunteer work -- sometimes they can go to senior centers, if the caregiver has resources to take them there. Being entertained, perhaps, by people that come into the centers. There are things to do. It's a question of finding out. A good place to start is the Local Office Area of Aging. You can find them listed in the phone book.

Moderator: What types of services does an area office on aging offer?

Dr. Beckerman: They serve as the clearing house of what would be available in your community for you to seek out, to help you with providing care to the older adult. Sometimes that's not easy. Different health care associations having to do with diabetes, or council to the blind will tell you what's available in your community that you can access, transportation in different states, different resources to transport people to a doctor's office or to senior centers. Usually they're a clearing house, because service is very fragmented. The Internet is a wonderful resource for looking for different support groups to help the older person. That's something that, if you're familiar with using the Internet, would be very good.

Moderator: All kidding aside, is Florida particularly well-suited to aging adults, and if so, why?

Dr. Beckerman: One of the good reasons is weather. People aren't homebound during the winter months, and this allows them to get out easier and feel part of the community. There are a lot more resources in southeast Florida, because of the large population of older adults, and the demand for resources. Transportation is a big area. I don't know how it is in other states, but in southeast Florida, transportation isn't readily available. But the services here are particularly good for the older adult, because of the large number of them retired here. There is an overabundance of assisted living facilities, and other facilities for the older adult. At the college of nursing at FAU (Florida Atlantic University), we offer services for elderly living in the community. They need their own transportation, but we can take blood pressure, offer advice on medication, etc. I'm involved as the coordinator of a gerontology certification program. One of the courses is geropharmacology, the aesthetics on aging, sensitizing the younger adult or caregiver to the older adult. We offer a lot.

Moderator: Finally, as we near the end of our time today, do you have some final thoughts you would care to share with us?

Dr. Beckerman: Go into this particular task of being a caregiver with an open heart, a lot of caring, and knowing that there are support systems, resources -- and knowing that what you've done, you've done your best, and to not feel guilt about what you're doing. A long as you're involved, you've done your best.

Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Beckerman.

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

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