John Wenzlau and Millie Oakeson

Each week, hosts John Wenzlau and Millie Oakeson from “Successful Aging” on KFNX 1100, provide experts’ advice on how to live the best life possible. Over the past year, they have had a variety of guests, each discussing a different aspect to living life and aging well.

This week, they welcomed Dr. Mary Gurney, associate professor of pharmacy practice at Midwestern University, to discuss the opioid epidemic, and Shelly Drews from Help My Senior on the upcoming dementia series, featuring Teepa Snow.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies categories of opioids: natural opioid analgesics; oxycodone; hydrocodone; etc.; synthetic opioid: methadone, tramadol and fentanyl; and illicit opioid: heroin.  

When asked why we are now hearing so much about an opioid epidemic, Gurney said, “The 2015 data shows that there were 22,000 prescription opioid-related overdose deaths and add in the heroin deaths and it takes it up to 33,000.”  

This number has continued to grow over the past several years. In comparison, there were 88,000 alcohol-related deaths that same year, but opioid prescriptions are easier to regulate and control than alcohol sales.

Opioids are neither good, nor bad, according to Gurney. There are many people who really need prescription opioids to get through painful surgeries, or even chronic pain. They just need to be prescribed appropriately and there are many prescription drug monitoring programs with databases that track controlled substance prescription dispensing by patient, prescriber and pharmacy.

The important take away from Gurney was to ask your doctor what their pain medicine protocol policy entails, before you have surgery, or when you visit him for chronic issues. The goal isn’t to deny pain treatment; the goal is to hold people accountable, so abuse doesn’t continue to kill more people each year. To contact Gurney, email her at mgurne@midwestern.edu.

When Drews came on the show, the topic switched from opioid epidemic to how to care for those with dementia. Drews made a dramatic statement that should cause all of us to take pause; one in three people will deal with dementia either with their own diagnosis, or with a loved one, or someone they know. That is the reason Drews is passionately promoting the Help My Senior Dementia Series, a five-series opportunity for people working with dementia patients, family members and caregivers to learn how to deal with this dreaded disease. There are more than 100 different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form. Each type is different and each individual reacts differently to the disease.  

Teepa Snow is an internationally known dementia and education specialist with more than 33 years of clinical experience in the field of geriatric and dementia care. The chances are great that one day in everyone’s life, they will be involved with someone who has dementia. For information and to register for this amazing training, beginning March 9 at Glencroft Senior Living, go online to www.helpmysenior.com.

For more information, visit www.successfulaging.info. Tune into Independent Talk KFNX 1100 11 a.m. every Tuesday, as we continue to explore living your best possible life and aging well.