Many Elders take numerous medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. “44% of men and 57% of women older than age 65 take five or more medications per week,” according to American Nurse Today. Because of this, it can be difficult for Elders and their loved ones to keep track of related side-effects or how the different medications will interact. Below are some tips to help Elders better manage their medications.
Some Medications May Not Be Safe for Elders
The American Geriatrics Society put together an updated Beers list for potentially inappropriate medication use in Elders. This list provides Elders and caretakers with important information that could potentially help avoid serious health issues. The Beers list names medications to avoid, as well as some medications that Elders may use with caution. Some of the medications on the list have a higher risk of side affects or adverse interactions and others may just be ineffective.
Elders Can Have Increased Sensitivity to Medications
In Elders, medications that are often prescribed to younger adults can have drastically different effects. Because of age and other health issues Elders may be more sensitive to medications. Blood pressure medications that are often prescribed to Elders can have a greater impact than intended and result in one’s blood pressure dropping too low. This can lead to lightheadedness and place them at a greater fall risk if not addressed. Another example would be when Elders are taking blood sugar medications that pushes blood sugar levels below what is recommended or safe. Excessively low blood sugar can lead to dizziness or falls and over time excessively lower blood sugar episodes have been linked to more rapid cognitive decline.
Know What’s in Your Medications
Medications, especially over-the-counter medications, can contain multiple active ingredients. Make sure you understand the different active ingredients and what they do. It’s not uncommon for Elders to have side-effects because of an active ingredient they didn’t even know they were taking. When speaking with a doctor or pharmacist about medication management, make sure to explain the over-the-counter medications that are currently being taken or have been taken recently.
Monitor Physical As Well As Mental Side-Effects
When we think of the side-effects of mismanaged medication, we often think of physical side-effects. However, mental or cognitive side-effects may provide early warning signs. Confusion or memory loss are common side-effects of mismanaged medication, but frustration or drastic mood swings can also be signs that something is wrong.
What You Can Do
Create a comprehensive list of the medication that you or your loved one is taking. This should include all prescription and over-the-counter medication.
Use an online drug interaction checker. This will help identify possible interactions. If you identify a possible interaction, make sure to speak with your doctor before making any drastic medication changes.
Limit or consolidate the number of doctors you see. The more people involved in prescribing, the higher the risk that something could be missed. This is especially true when the different doctors aren’t affiliated and don’t have easy access to all your records.
Create a system that helps maintain a consistent medication schedule. This could simply include pill boxes for each day or the week or a calendar with a checklist.
Ask your doctor for help simplifying your medication regimen. There may be once-a-day options to replace a medication that is taken several times per day, or your doctor might be able to prescribe a non-drug treatment.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with medication management, we can help. At West Ridge our medical director, Dr. Younger, and our caregivers are here to implement a medication management plan that works for each individual according to their custom care plan. We help patients and residents understand their medications, and we implement a management schedule that is safe, healthy and effective for each person.
This blog contains discussion about health-related subjects and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnose or treat any disease or illness. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact your doctor immediately or call 9-1-1.