Caregiving

When a loved one is addicted to opiates

Peter Grinspoon, MD
Peter Grinspoon, MD, Contributing Editor

Considering the death toll from opioid overdoses, responding to loved one’s opioid addiction love and empathy might be the safer and more effective method for friends and families to take. At the same time, It is essential to pay attention to the wellbeing of the family members themselves, as having a loved one with a substance use disorder can be profoundly stressful and disruptive, even traumatic.

Making health social: Friends and family as part of the health care team

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

Healthy choices can be hard to make, but it becomes much easier when your entire social circle helps you keep up with it. According to a recent study, engaging your friends and family in your lifestyle changes will hold you accountable, and you will be more likely to stick with those changes. Making them a regular part of your “health care team” could go a long way to maintaining your health.

Understanding suicide in children and early adolescents may lead to more effective prevention

Ellen Braaten, PhD
Ellen Braaten, PhD, Contributor

Though suicide in children and young adolescents is rare, it is still a far-too-frequent occurrence. It is also one that is increasing, particularly in black youth. There are differences in the characteristics and circumstances of children and adolescents who commit suicide. A better understanding of these could lead to more effective prevention programs.

Let’s recognize caregivers and make it easier for all of us to do the right thing

Charlotte S. Yeh, MD
Charlotte S. Yeh, MD, Chief Medical Officer, AARP Services, Inc., Guest Contributor

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Being a caregiver is an act of love and responsibility, but it comes at a cost. There are currently 40 million caregivers in the United States. These individuals devote time to take care of a loved one, endure stress that carries health risks, and often bear a financial burden as well. It is hard work and it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate those who are caregivers. Ideally, doctors and the health care system will find ways to help caregivers integrate their responsibilities into the workflow of their lives in the interest of better outcomes for everyone.

Caring for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience challenging physical and emotional problems. Those caring for loved ones affected by PTSD need to balance self-care, limits, and realistic expectations. While the symptoms of PTSD may never completely go away, there are effective treatments that can reduce the effects and improve the lives of sufferers and the ones who care for them.

The (not-so-hidden) costs of caregiving

Leo Newhouse, LICSW
Leo Newhouse, LICSW, Contributor

Americans provide nearly $650 billion worth of unpaid caregiving for their ill or aging loved ones every year. But the less tangible costs are important, too. A new study has revealed that caregivers of critically ill family members are at high risk for depression — and that this risk remains high long after the initial health crisis is over. Fortunately, there are several strategies caregivers can use to keep their bodies — and minds — healthy.

Opioid crisis: The difference between sympathy and empathy

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

When a patient calls a new doctor begging for a refill on their pain medication, what should the doctor do? Denying medication to someone in significant pain seems unethical — but denying it to someone who’s suspected to be reselling it is a whole different story. Doctors now have systems in place to help them make the right call. But even these systems can’t replace the most critical piece of the puzzle — empathy.

Avoid this common hazard of being in the hospital

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

A hospital stay can be confusing and disorienting for anyone — but especially for older people, who are prone to episodes of delirium when in the hospital. Several hospital-based programs exist to help identify people at risk for delirium and prevent episodes before they happen. We’ve discussed one such successful program, plus listed tips to help you or your loved one avoid delirium during a hospital stay.

Medical alert systems: In vogue, and for some, invaluable

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Medical alert devices can be a lifesaver — literally — if you suffer a fall. But not all medical devices are created equal. Here, we’ve listed the most common types and described the pros and cons of each, as well as the important things to consider when deciding which type to purchase.

Decline in dementia rate offers “cautious hope”

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association predicted that rates of dementia would continue to rise. However, a report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that rates of dementia have actually dropped steadily over the past three decades. Whether the drop in rates applies to everyone, and whether it will continue, remain to be seen. But the evidence also confirms that there’s quite a lot you can do to lower your dementia risk.