Hospitalized Aging Parents: Avoiding the Accidental “Bad Things”

EACH YEAR, half-a-million injuries occur in the United States because of medication errors,” according to a 2009 U Magazine (UCLA health) article. 

We live in an imperfect world. The older we get the more we’re aware. With a better understanding of “best practices” are we better equipped to help hospitalized aging parents avoid accidental bad things because we know what to look for and thus, know what questions to ask? How can we know and ask pertinent questions if we’re clueless about it in the first place?

The following excerpted information from U Magazine’s 2009 article, “Do No Harm,” illuminates measures the UCLA hospital system began implementing to reduce the potential for accidental “bad things” (my words for the overarching concept). Having this knowledge helps us know what to look for. Hopefully our hospitals have implemented some of these measures so we and our aging parents can take advantage–now 4 years later.

For example: Hand hygiene, infection control. General hearsay is that we can “get things” in the hospital. Isn’t that a reason for the hand sanitizers and latex gloves within reach in every examining room and sanitizers in–or outside–every hospital room? But, for example, do we take advantage of this by checking that hands are washed or sanitized or fresh gloves are put on when a health care person comes into our parents’ hospital room?  The “Do No Harm” article empowers us in this regard.

We learn of a national effort to create a kind of safety net in medicine. A UCLA doctor is quoted as saying  “Our hospitals are very safe. But we can always do more.” UCLA, in particular, has embarked on an ambitious program to enhance patient safety that touches on a variety of areas, including controlling infections, eliminating medication errors, improving incident reporting, and enhancing surgical safety.

Medication errors:  To help prevent errors, UCLA Health System [now has]…a bar-coded medication-administration system. The rationale? Experts say adding bar codes to the drugs given to patients could substantially reduce the number of medication errors by applying an extra layer of oversight to every step in the delivery process. That said, do we check to make certain aging parents are getting the correct medications and dosages? Do we keep a list..even when they aren’t in the hospital?

A personal note: it would seem to make sense to make sure parents (especially when they’re not too “with it” for whatever reason), drink lots of water with pills. Mother (never a big water-drinker) didn’t do this during one hospitalization. Pills more or less collected in her throat someplace, causing bad irritation. Not a medication error –just no one was checking water consumption with pills.

Incident reporting: Visitors occasionally take tumbles in hallways; equipment sometimes malfunctions; and patients may have bad reactions to their medication.

To track such mishaps, hospitals in California must report any “adverse events” to the state’s Department of Health Services. UCLA has implemented a cutting-edge computerized reporting system that can be accessed from any computer terminal within the hospitals and affiliated clinics and by those involved in patient care, from physicians and nurses to respiratory therapists and housekeeping personnel.

This computerized system also has an event-reporting system to improve its own monitoring of the quality of care at its hospitals and clinics. This system eliminates the time-consuming paperwork to report “adverse events” and the necessity to deliver the report to a central office in a timely manner.

Says Tod Barry, quality director for Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “If people are comfortable in reporting, they’re more likely to report.

Read the article in its entirety: “Do No Harm” article

–February 2013  Hospitalization and the Importance of Family post.–Quality website links for everything  hospital-related throughout California and the USA



Memory Gains (not Losses) in New Study–average age 84: Help for Aging Parents, Grandparents and Eventually Us

“Oops! I’ve forgotten that name–I know it as well as my own.”
“My memory’s not what it used to be.”
“How could I have forgotten?!”

Sound familiar? At a certain age, we begin to hear–if not utter–those phrases. While we don’t think too much about it initially, it does become troublesome and worrisome after a period of time. The rising numbers of bridge players, Sudoku players, crossword puzzle converts, etc. no doubt hope exercising the brain will stave off memory problems or improve their current memory levels.

Heartening research: News comes from a small study–indeed one of the first–to assess the effects a computerized-memory training program has on memory. Published in UCLA’s U Magazine, courtesy UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine, the article is short so it’s reposted below. (Click link to check out the magazine’s entire Summer 2013 issue + back issues.) People with an average age of 84 were in the control groups, so the potential for helping parents and grandparents improve their memory and thus age well seems to be at—

 The Cutting Edge (U Magazine’s Column’s title)

Fitness Training for the Brain

Fitness Training for the BrainUCLA researchers found that older adults who regularly used a brain-fitness program played on a computer demonstrated significantly improved memory and language skills. The team studied 59 participants with an average age of 84, recruited from local retirement communities in Southern California.

The volunteers were split into two groups. The first group used a brain-fitness program for an average of 73.5 20-minute sessions across a six-month period, while a second group played it less than 45 times during the same period. Researchers found that the first group demonstrated significantly higher improvement in memory and language skills, compared to the second group.

Age-related memory decline affects approximately 40 percent of older adults and is characterized by self-perception of memory loss and decline in memory performance. The study’s findings add to the field, exploring whether or not such brain-fitness tools may help improve language and memory and may ultimately help protect individuals from the cognitive decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Previous studies have shown that engaging in mental activities can help improve memory, but little research has been done to determine if the numerous brain-fitness games and memory-training programs on the market are effective. This study is one of the first to assess the cognitive effects of a computerized memory-training program.

Is it a good guess that computerized memory training software will be available as soon as some entrepreneurial people can produce it? The challenge will be to do the research to make certain the software comes from a reputable/reliable source. In addition, the probability of better memory should be the key to converting non-computer-using elders to computer users. And won’t that be a win-win as we continue our efforts to help aging parents and other older people in our lives.