Caregiving For Seniors: “Let’s Talk About Rx”

We’re always being warned to “talk to our kids about drugs.” Good advice – but we also ought to be talking to seniors about drugs as well.

Prescription drugs, that is.

Senior citizens often have to juggle several prescriptions at once, often prescribed by different doctors with varied side effects. Managing all that can be very difficult – and failing to do it exactly right can have serious health consequences.

And that’s a common problem, as it turns out. A recent survey of seniors by Home Instead Senior Care found that “nearly one-fifth of those taking five or more prescription medications have experienced challenges in managing their medications, including keeping track of which medications they have taken and when.”

If you’re caring for an aging loved one, how do you start the conversation about properly managing medications? It’s an important discussion to have – but it’s not an easy one to begin.

The Home Instead Senior Care network has launched a new public education program called “Let’s Talk About Rx,” which offers resources, pamphlets, and tips for families looking to start that conversation and help senior family members better manage their prescriptions.

Stephen Lair of Home Instead’s Chapel Hill branch spoke about “Let’s Talk About Rx” with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


If you’re caring for a senior, Home Instead offers five tips to help them better manage their medication regimen:

1) Have a family or professional caregiver accompany them to the doctor to ask questions and make sure they fully understand the regimen.

2) If they’re seeing more than one doctor, designate one as the ‘gatekeeper’ to manage medications and discuss any problems (like being unable to swallow a pill).

3) Use medication organizers, like a pill box.

4) Use medication trackers.

5) Consider ordering medications from pharmacies that provide pre-packaged doses.

Learn more at

This Holiday Season, “Be A Santa To A Senior”

When we think of Christmas, we often think about the kids. Sitting on Santa’s lap, waiting up all night on Christmas Eve, presents magically appearing under the tree on Christmas morning.

In all the excitement over the kids, though, we often forget about others in need – senior citizens, for instance, many of whom live alone, have little to no family, and struggle daily to make ends meet.

But there’s a way that you can help. Local business Home Instead Senior Care partners every year with a variety of non-profits, churches and municipal agencies to organize a gift-giving drive called “Be A Santa To A Senior.” (“Be A Santa” is a national initiative; Home Instead is running the local drive in Chapel Hill.)

It’s easy to get involved. Organizers have put up Christmas trees at three spots around town: Starbucks at Eastgate, Talbots at Eastgate, and the UPS Store on Fordham Boulevard. Those trees are decorated with tags, each with the name of a local senior and an item they’ve requested. Pull a tag off the tree, buy the item and drop it off at the location, and Home Instead workers will deliver the items beginning next week. (Home Instead franchise owner Stephen Lair says delivering the presents is the highlight of his year.)

Stephen Lair spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


The trees will be up until Friday, December 18.

Even if you can’t get involved in the “Be A Santa” initiative this year, Lair says you can make a difference in a senior’s life anytime.

“There is a ton of seniors out there that we can’t touch,” he says. “Reach out this holiday season. Reach out and make contact with them, make them a cookie – whatever it takes to make sure they’re not alone on Christmas.”

Parents Aging? Remember The “40-70 Rule”

As your parents grow older, it becomes more and more important to have those tough conversations about aging – but most American families put off those discussions, often until it’s too late.

That’s why senior caregiving experts are promoting the “40-70 Rule” – a new program that’s designed to help seniors and their children and caregivers through the process.

“40-70” gets its name from a very simple rule: experts say the time to start talking with your parents about aging-related issues is when you’re getting close to 40 and your parents are getting close to 70. That will give you enough time to discuss tough issues calmly and thoughtfully, well in advance of any health crisis or other emergency.

Those issues may include living arrangements, finances, when and when not to drive, health care and end-of-life decisions – and even dating, when your parent is divorced or widowed.

Stephen Lair, of the Home Instead Senior Care branch in Chapel Hill, spoke with Aaron Keck last week on “Aaron in the Afternoon.”

Visit for more information about how to get started with the 40-70 program.

Click here for seven tips on how to communicate with your aging parents. (Key tips: start early, before a problem arises; put yourself in your parents’ shoes; try to find solutions that maximize your parents’ independence; and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.)

And for a longer discussion of the “40-70” plan, visit this link.

This Month, Make Homes Safe For Seniors

In honor of National Safety Month, senior home care experts at Chapel Hill’s Home Instead Senior Care are offering free home safety checks throughout the month of June.

Stephen Lair of Home Instead Senior Care says it’s extremely important to make sure the home is safe, especially if you or your family member is a senior citizen: 33 percent of seniors’ hospital visits are caused by falls and other accidents in the home, he says, and nearly half of those could have been prevented with some basic safety precautions – precautions as simple as removing loose rugs or making sure railings are secure.

Lair joined Aaron Keck on the WCHL Afternoon News to discuss the issue.

For more information on in-home safety, visit – and for more information on Home Instead Senior Care or to schedule a safety check, visit

Recognizing Heroes, Past And Present

TRIANGLE – You can vote online for your local favorites as the Greater Raleigh Sports Council has announced the nominees for their annual awards, to be presented in February at an “Evening of Champions” ceremony.

UNC soccer star Crystal Dunn is nominated alongside Chapel Hill High School soccer star Ben Fisher for the Amateur Athletics Award, presented to the Triangle’s top amateur athlete. Longtime East Chapel Hill tennis coach Lindsey Linker is nominated for the Community Spirit Award, honoring a career of community service.

And two Tar Heels are nominated for the Council’s inaugural Kay Yow Champion Award, honoring community leaders who have made impacts on the lives of others. UNC women’s basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell is up for that honor, as well as former Tar Heel baseball player Chase Jones, who founded the Vs. Cancer Foundation and started the “BaseBald” tradition of baseball players shaving their heads to raise money for cancer research.

You can vote online for your favorites up to once a day at


The Carrboro branch of the Orange County Public Library is presenting a new photography exhibit featuring the work of Sophie Steiner, a teen photographer who lost her battle with cancer last year at the age of 14.

The exhibit is called “Life is a Beautiful Thing.” It features Steiner’s pictures and writings, along with other photos and reflections submitted by her peers.

The exhibit runs through March 31. A reception will be held at the library (inside McDougle Middle School) on Sunday, January 26 from 2:00-4:30.


Orange County’s Human Relations Commission is marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act with an event at the Carrboro Century Center on Sunday, January 26.

It’s entitled “Equal Justice Under the Law: Are We There Yet?” It will feature a discussion moderated by UNC professor Gene Nichol, the director of UNC’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Panelists include State Senator Valerie Foushee, civil rights attorney Al McSurely, and John “Blackfeather” Jeffries, a veteran of the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s.

The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. and run until 5:00. Everyone is welcome.


Do you know a senior citizen who deserves recognition for their volunteer work? Home Instead Senior Care is seeking nominations from now through March 1 for their “Salute to Senior Service” program, recognizing seniors 65 and older who volunteer at least 15 hours a month of their time.

To nominate someone, visit


As part of a national rural economic development program, the city of Mebane has received $1.2 million from the Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation to purchase two fire trucks and help build its new fire station.

The money is actually a zero-interest loan—part of the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, which provides funds to local cooperatives like Piedmont Electric, who pass those funds to local organizations to help create jobs in rural areas. Mebane’s fire station project is slated to create 12 new jobs while reducing response times during emergency calls.

Once the funds are repaid, they’ll be loaned out again to support other projects in the area.

The Fight Against Dementia In The Family: One Woman’s Story

CHAPEL HILL- One local family member of a dementia patient is speaking out about how the disease can affect not just the sufferer, but also his or her loved ones—and she also wants the public to be aware of all the programs, including those at Home Instead Senior Care, that Chapel Hill has to offer for the families of those caregivers.

Susan Smialowitcz’s husband has struggled with dementia for the past seven years, and he’s currently in disease’s the advanced stages. When he was first diagnosed at the age of 60, she says she quickly learned that the town was well-equipped to handle people in her predicament.

“It’s not what you would ever expect to happen in your life, but one of the good things I can say is that Chapel Hill has wonderful resources,” she says. “That has certainly reduced my level of stress, or at least I’ve been able to compartmentalize it a little more, because I do have choices.”

Smialowitcz’s family worked with a variety of different eldercare programs, before eventually settling on Home Instead Senior Care. She says Home Instead has been especially helpful in keeping up with her husband as he has progressed through the various stages of dementia.

“I said from the beginning that I wanted companions, not a sitter,” she says. “When they first started with us, my husband was walking around and going outside, and that’s exactly what they did. Now he’s to the point where he needs complete care, and Home Instead has picked up right where I requested.”

And Smialowitcz adds that she’s particularly impressed with Home Instead Senior Care’s one-on-one approach to caretaking.

“Having someone with him has made a huge difference,” she says. “For instance, the young man who works with him now will sing to him, and music’s always been important. He’ll reach out and hold their hands.”

Apart from Home Instead’s resources, Smialowitcz says she recommends that all dementia patient caregivers get involved in a support group to meet other local residents who are facing similar circumstances. She says finding a passion away from the home can also make things easier.

“And the third thing I want to mention is my faith and the role that has played in helping me get through this,” she says. “It hasn’t taken away the stress at all, but with the kinds of resources like Home Instead, you learn to adapt.”
Home Instead Senior Care has launched the Family Caregiver Stress Relief campaign, which is designed to help friends and family members of dementia patients who are part of the caregiving process. For more information on the initiative, click here.

Hear the aired version here:

Help For Alzheimer’s Caregivers, From Home Instead Senior Care

CHAPEL HILL – According to a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans have had a personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease—and more than 60 percent of Americans say they feel unprepared to care for a loved one who’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I just don’t know that you’re ever really prepared, unless you’ve walked through it before and seen the toll that it takes,” says Stephen Lair, the franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Chapel Hill. “It affects the whole family.”

This week, Home Instead is offering a series of classes designed for family caregivers to help cope with the disease while keeping their loved ones as comfortable and safe as possible.

“What we’re trying to do with our Alzheimer’s program is give family members the tools to be able to engage their family members all throughout the process (of the disease),” Lair says.

The program is called Alzheimer’s CARE, or Changing Aging through Research and Education.  The classes are free; they begin this week Tuesday in Chapel Hill and continue on Thursday, from 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Lair says the time commitment is worth it, because these classes speak directly to what caregivers need to know to cope on a day-to-day basis.

“A lot of training (tends to be) very cerebral,” Lair says. “It talks about how the disease progresses and what the stages are. But what we find is that family members want to know, ‘okay, that’s great, I know how the disease works, but how do I get my dad to take a bath? How do I manage those behaviors that become difficult as the disease progresses? How do I continue to connect with him once he starts losing such large chunks of his memory–and losing chunks of who he is?'”

The training sessions are designed to walk people through the various stages of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Lair says the best approach, at any stage, is simply to try to engage the patient “in their world.”

“I think a lot of people, when they’re dealing with Alzheimer’s, they’re consistently trying to bring people back,” Lair says. “(They say) ‘if I play a certain music or say a certain word, something that’s familiar, then there’ll be a moment of clarity’–and that may sometimes exist…(but) rather than (trying to) bring them back, you (should) just accept the reality of, ‘where they are in time is not where I am in time. Even though he may be 85 right now, he’s remembering things (from) when he was 60, 65 years old. And that’s what his world looks like.'”

Lair says the “Alzheimer’s CARE” classes are designed to teach people how to engage Alzheimer’s patients in that way. He says one of the most effective tools is something called a “life journal.”

“(It’s) something where, throughout the early stages of Alzheimer’s, you begin to gather information about who the person is at all the different stages of life,” he says. “So as they regress through Alzheimer’s and they lose more current memories, you can still engage them in their world, in their reality.”

Classes run from 6:00-8:30 Tuesday and Thursday at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce office on Estes Drive. If you’d like to sign up for the free workshops,, or call Home Instead Senior Care at 919-933-3300.