One of the concerns most frequently shared by the family caregivers we work with in Illinois and Missouri relates to medication safety. Many adult children know aging loved ones are at risk for ending up in the emergency room from mismanagement, but they often don’t understand why. We thought it would be good to share a quick medication safety overview with readers.One of the concerns most frequently shared by the family caregivers we work with in Illinois and Missouri relates to medication safety. Many adult children know aging loved ones are at risk for ending up in the emergency room from mismanagement, but they often don’t understand why. We thought it would be good to share a quick medication safety overview with readers.
Types of Medications
Medications are broken down in to two basic categories:
Prescription drugs – those that require a physician order and supervision
Over-the-counter medicines – medications anyone can purchase without a prescription
Medication Problems and the Elderly
The most common types of medication issues for seniors include:
1. Mixing medications.
One of the most common problems physicians see in emergency rooms is older adults who have mixed prescription drugs with over-the-counter medicines and had an adverse reaction. Because a medication is available without a physician’s prescription, people often treat them as less than serious drugs. That is a mistake. They can be dangerous if they aren’t taken as directed on the package, and they can also interfere with prescription drugs. Make sure your physician knows and approves of your over-the-counter medication usage.
2. Side effects.
As we age or develop multiple health conditions, physicians may need to prescribe several different medications as treatment. The more medications we take, the greater the likelihood of a drug interaction or unintended side effect. This is even more common in older adults who process medications differently. If you are a caregiver, you should be alert to changes in mood, problems with balance, and cognition in your senior loved one.
Our body responds differently to medicine as we grow older than it did in younger days. One primary problem is that it takes longer for our bodies to eliminate substances than it used to take. That means seniors often need a lower dose to avoid being overmedicated.
4. Follow the directions.
This is another common struggle for older adults. They may forget they took one medication and take it again while neglecting another prescription altogether. There are technologies that can help you help ensure your loved one is taking the right dosage at the right time. Many are easy to use and fairly inexpensive.
This Medication Awareness Evaluator from WebMD may be a helpful tool for caregivers to explore.