Submitted by the Office of District Attorney Marian Ryan
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan spoke to Bedford seniors yesterday as part of her county-wide initiative to raise awareness about the risks and impacts of the opioid crisis for seniors.
The presentation was part of the District Attorney’s grandparent opioid program, which educates seniors in Middlesex County about how to manage their prescription medication, keep medication safe from theft, properly dispose of unused or expired medication and identify signs of drug addiction in loved ones.
Seniors were also given resources about programs that provide support, guidance and coaching for individuals and family members dealing with addiction. District Attorney Ryan was joined by Bedford Chief of Police Robert Bongiorno, State Representative Ken Gordon and the Bedford Council on Aging Director Alison Cservenschi.
District Attorney Ryan, who previously chaired the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office’s Elder Protection Unit, has developed this program recognizing that the impact of the opioid crisis on seniors is extensive.
Approximately 34,000 grandparents in Massachusetts are raising grandchildren. According to a survey conducted by the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Children, 80 percent of these cases are because of opioid use or the opioid-related death of a son or daughter. Additionally, seniors often have opioids at home, either from a prior surgery or as an active prescription for chronic pain. They can also be financially vulnerable and susceptible to pressure from family members who may approach them for money when they know they regularly receive checks.
The grandparent program provides an essential understanding of opioids, educating seniors on the origin of the problem and focusing on issues including overprescribing and prescription drug use as a gateway to heroin. The presentation also helps seniors to identify signs of a substance use disorder of which they may be otherwise unaware. Some signs seniors learned to watch for include missing items like spoons, aluminum foil, plastic sandwich bags and valuables like money and jewelry. Seniors also learned how to recognize physical, social and emotional manifestations of substance use.
At the conclusion of the presentation, District Attorney Ryan provided attending seniors with a “File of Life.” This personalized card can be used to maintain a list of an individual’s medications, the dosages, and frequency, and lists important information about medical data and emergency contacts. This card can be a helpful tool for first responders when administering emergency care and also to help identify missing medication in cases of suspected elder abuse.
This training was a part of a county-wide initiative to provide information and resources to Middlesex Seniors. Middlesex County has experienced a 185% increase in overdose deaths since 2012. In 2016 there have been two fatal heroin overdoses in Bedford.