A Caregiver’s Guide: Assisting Seniors With Treatment Decision-Making

Seniors often have a difficult time adjusting to the reality of aging. As a caregiver, you are responsible for filling in the gaps and protecting your loved one’s interests. You are certainly energized and ready for the task. Yet, you find yourself grappling with increasing challenges in a daily battle for normalcy. The roles have been reversed; you are now an adviser, mentor, and personal care aide to someone who used to make all the decisions. With this in mind, we would like to share our best tips for assisting seniors with treatment decision-making.

Caring mid adult woman talks with her mom's home healthcare nurse. The daughter has her arm around her mom. The senior woman is shaking the nurse's hand.

The Importance Of Research

Empower yourself by learning the facts about your loved one’s diagnosis. Both PubMed and the Mayo Clinic offer extensive information about a multitude of conditions. Research the pertinent disease, treatment options, and prognosis. You need not be an expert about all three. However, knowing important facts will help you guide your loved one towards more informed decisions.

Assisting Patients With Treatment Decision-Making: Looking At All The Options

Hospitals and doctors often rely on first-line treatments or recommended treatment regimes for diseases. Be sure to research all first-line treatment options individually. For example, how will each option affect the body and the immune system? Is curative or palliative treatment preferable for a particular diagnosis? What about medications?

When it comes to the latter, understand that many medications list seemingly alarming side effects. Do not panic. Look up the statistics for patients who experienced particular symptoms. Keep in mind that most medications have been approved after extensive clinical trial testing. So, if your doctor has recommended a medication, there is a good chance that it will be safe.

In any case, print out a list of side effects that you can easily reference at a moment’s notice. Use the list as a guideline to determine if the medication is working or hindering your loved one’s progress.

Why Patient History Matters

It is absolutely essential that you familiarize yourself with your loved one’s medical history. Pay particular attention to allergies, especially those that cause reactions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome or anaphylaxis. They can be fatal. Bring a list of noted allergies with you, especially if you are accompanying your loved one to the doctor for the first time. It is especially important to keep the doctor updated about the emergence of new allergies.

Records And The Role Of Decision Aids

Keep careful records of symptoms and new developments. Shared decision-making is a process: be patient and listen to any opinions your loved one shares. Here, decision aids such as whitepapers, DVDs, and videos may be invaluable in facilitating communication. They can help you and your loved one be active partners in the healing process.

David York Agency Understands The Challenges Of Assisting Seniors With Treatment Decision-Making

For more about treatment decision-making, be sure to explore David York Agency’s blog.

If you need more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 877.216.7676. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best. We aim to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

We’d also like to point out that you can get answers to your immediate concerns by contacting us today.

Aging and Medication: Hazards, Health, and Hope

Every new drug formulation, testing phase, and government approval means longer, healthier lives. However, new medicines also bring new problems and the possibility of exacerbating old ones. Aging and medication go hand in hand, but how much do you really know about your prescriptions?

Senior Woman Taking Medication From Pill Box. Aging and medication concept

Aging and Medication: Fast Facts

  • Adults age 65 and older buy 30% of all prescription drugs and 40% of all OTC medications.
  • One in six seniors will suffer an adverse reaction to their medications.
  • Falls are the leading cause of death among the elderly, and many of those falls are related to a drug overdose, missed doses, and adverse drug interactions.
  • Prescription drug abuse is found in about 30% of those between the ages of 65 and 85.
  • Polypharmacy, “defined as the use of multiple drugs or more than are medically necessary, is a growing concern for older adults” and increases the chance of death in the elderly.

90% of the aging population faces a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. However bad the statistics, adding new drugs without careful consideration increases both the chances of bad reactions and abuse.

What do you need to know about aging and medication?

Learning to Ask Questions

The best way to ensure that you or your loved one are getting the right treatments is to ask questions. Educate yourself! Do you know the possible side effects of your heart medication? Do you understand why you should always take a certain pill on an empty stomach? Are your prescriptions compatible? These questions can help you avoid hazards and enjoy the benefits of your medications.

Not sure how to approach your doctor with these questions? Consider a three-way conversation between the patient, the doctor, and a health advocate. The advocate is a friend, relative or healthcare professional who serves as a listener, note-taker (see our blog post “Don’t Worry: I’ll Take Notes For You“), and information seeker. Together, go over which doctors are prescribing which drugs as well as the dosages, side effects, and things to avoid. You should also discuss OTC products such as vitamins and herbal supplements. Additionally, review the patient’s daily routine and health, as well as any physical or cognitive changes.

Drug Interactions: What to Know

Medications interact with other medications and alcohol as well as certain foods. These interactions cause prescriptions to work differently or stop working altogether. Age also changes how drugs work; the aging body has less muscle to absorb medication, so dosage adjustments are sometimes necessary to prevent side effects. Ask your doctor to cover drug interactions for each new prescription you receive.

Missed Doses

Depending on the type of medication and the person’s condition, missed doses of certain medications can result in rapid and serious illness. Time-released drugs, drugs requiring food, and drugs for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, seizure disorders and cancer treatments are critical. Trying to make up a missed dose by doubling it can result in a trip to the emergency room.

There are smartphone reminder apps, charts and calendar reminders available, and for the forgetful, there are smart pill bottles.


Our agency’s 33 years of experienced care is reflected in every nurse and administrator on our team. For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, please contact us at 718.376.7755. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on TwitterGoogle+, or LinkedIn.