Forbes Talks Senior Issues in Chester
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 24, 2012, 15:00
photo by Caitin Davis Congressman Randy Forbes, R-4, speaking at Tyler’s Retreat on Tuesday morning, said it is important for seniors to understand what is available to them. “Without that information we can make bad decisions,” he said.
Congressman Randy Forbes, R-4, spent Tuesday morning at Tyler’s Retreat in Chester, bringing light to some of the issues facing seniors today. Forbes wanted the seniors in attendance to understand resources available to them and how to seek help when they encounter problems.
Surveying the crowd, Forbes said he is continually impressed by the attendance at such events.
“I’m always so impressed with how our senior citizens love to keep up with information,” Forbes said.
He cited his mother as an example of why conversations like the one held Tuesday morning are important. He said his mother says that the people who call her on the phone with information and offers are nice. Forbes said that can be a trap.
“‘Randy they are so nice,’” Forbes said. “I tell her, ‘Well, darling, if they’re coming to take advantage of you, normally they are not wearing a sign that says ‘I’m a crook.’”
He said that today, there is so much information available it is often times hard to know what to believe, which can leave people vulnerable. Hoping to help the seniors in attendance sort through that information, the Congressman invited the experts seated in the front row to speak to the audience at Tyler’s.
“And so we bring in the best experts we can, that are well schooled in their fields,” Forbes said.
One issues that faces senior citizens is the quantity of medicine that sits in their cabinets. Dr. Emily Peron, Assistant Clinical Professor with the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, spoke on polypharmacy and geriatric pharmacy.
Peron said while seniors currently make up 10 to 15 percent of the population, they account for 30 to 40 percent of all medicine sales.
“Most adults are taking five or more medications,” Peron said.
She said that no medication is without side effects or risks. Peron wanted those there to understand that as a person ages, his or her body changes and medication is not processed as quickly . Often times the medicine stays in an older body for longer periods of time.
Peron said one of the problems many seniors face an excess of prescribed medications, some prescribed to treat side effects from other medications.
“Keep in mind that any new symptom that you experience should be a drug side effect until proven otherwise,” Peron said. “We don’t know your body as well as you do.”
Peron urged the audience to begin to ask questions of their doctors or even pharmacists why they are taking certain medications.
“Why are we treating drug side effects with other drugs,” Peron asked. “There is nothing wrong with asking questions.”
Forbes asked Peron how patients can make sure they have enough time to ask their doctors questions when appointments and check-ups can be very quick.
Peron responded by saying that the seniors should write down their questions beforehand and not worry about spending more time in the doctor’s office.
“You are paying for a service and you should be getting the most out of that service,” Peron said.
Gretchen Francis, Long Term Care Ombudsman with Senior Connections, The Capital Area on Aging, spoke next regarding long term care options available for seniors. As Ombudsman, Francis acts as an advocate, making sure citizens are receiving fair treatment under the law.
Francis investigates complaints and concerns within the long term health care industry. She said that her agency serves a resource for the community and that looking around for long term care can be an emotional process.
“Choosing long term care is personal,” Francis said. “You are looking for your next home...we provide the tools and resources you need to make the best decision for yourself.”
Francis said assisted living facilities are managed by the Department of Social Security and given one, two or three year licenses. She told the audience to keep in mind that an assisted living facility with a three year license should speak for itself.
“It gives you an idea of what the state thinks about them,” Francis said.
She said an assisted living facility provides for basic needs with minimal assistance with daily tasks such as bathing and dressing.
A nursing home, such as Tyler’s Retreat, is licensed by the Department of Health. She said it has a much higher level of care and personal nursing assistance than an assisted living facility. Francis said nursing homes are rated according to a five-star rating system, with five being the best. An overview of nursing homes in the area is available at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare.
“The most important thing you can do is go visit numerous times,” Francis said. She said to visit facilities under consideration at different times of the day and to speak to other family members about their experiences.
Forbes said that discussions like the one he arranged with local seniors on Tuesday are important to have. He said he has been having such discussions in Washington for over 20 years.
“We were talking about long term care before there were any long term care options out there,” Forbes said of the legislature.
Forbes also said he advocated for funding in various areas of medical research, especially for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes. He said those three ailments that are common in the senior population, and potentially costly.
“If we bump the symptoms for one of those for two years, it would change the health care curve enormously in the United States,” Forbes said. “We are working very, very hard in trying to do that.”
Forbes said he is also working to make sure that Social Security and Medicare will continue to be there for people when they need them. He said that healthcare issues facing seniors hit close to home for him.
“My dad had Parkinson’s Disease,” Forbes said. “He took 22 pills a day...I watched him and even though he had Medicare his health care costs were pretty significant. I realized how important it was for us to deal with the quality of life that our seniors have and that it’s not just a number. It is about real people like my Dad, like my Mom.”
Janet Fisher Callis, Director of Marketing at Tyler’s Retreat, said having Forbes there Tuesday morning was a way for people to learn from those who represent them in Washington.
“I think it’s important we offer the senior population to come in and meet the people in Washington who are making laws that effect every part of their life,” Callis said.
Pete Fundinger, of Chester, was one of the audience members taking part in the discussion on Tuesday morning.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something,” Fundinger said. “I always pick up something that is relevant.”