Common medication issues with the elderly and how to solve them
It is known to a certain degree that your immune system declines as you continue to age therefore leaving your body more vulnerable to infections. This causes quite a number of health issues especially in the elderly population, requiring them to take more medications and supplements to compensate for the weak immune response. However, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing ; the same goes for medication. Having the need to consume a wide variety of medications to maintain their health can be a challenging and tiresome effort. In addition to that, unlike younger patients, elderly patients have a lower metabolism and are unable to metabolize the drugs out of their system as fast as their younger counterparts. Here are some common medication issues related to the elderly and ways to solve them in order to prevent any harm from occurring.
- Bite off more than you can chew
- Problem: Have you ever heard your grandparents or any elderly person tell you to eat or drink more healthy food or drink because it’s supposedly good for you? The same thing sometimes applies when it comes to medication for some of the elderly population. For example, some of them consume paracetamol even for a minor headache that can go away with a bit of rest. What some of them do not understand is that medication is good for the body if taken in moderation or whenever necessary to prevent accidentally overdosing themselves.
- Solution: Medication prescription should be monitored as well as watching out for signs of overdose such as oversedation, mood swings and running out of medication at a fast rate.
- Mixing up medications
- Problem: Prescribed medications sometimes have similar names to each other especially when the prescriptions are written in small fine print. Besides the immune system, other systems of the body are usually affected as we age, such as deterioration of vision and memory. Vision loss, such as long or short sightedness and astigmatism, will cause them to misread the labels or prescription of their medication. In addition to that, memory loss will make them forget to take their medication on time or even to accidentally take an additional dose.
- Solution: Medications that need to be taken should be kept well and organized in pill dispensers labeled with the day and time of consumption. It would also be nice to have someone with the patient such as a caregiver, nurse or even a family member or close family friend who can monitor the medication consumption in case there were to be any changes in terms of consumption time or dosage taken.
- Drug interactions
- Problem: As it is usual that the elderly tend to take a wide range of medications for their health, there is no doubt some of those medications have to be taken at the same times of the day (e.g. one pill three times a day after meals). Some medications are not meant to be mixed and most of the time family members with minimal medicine-related background would be unaware of this. In addition to that, some families get medications prescribed for their loved ones at various pharmacies. They tend to consult various pharmacists or specialists who do not have prior knowledge about the history of medications consumed by their loved one. Besides that, food and drug interactions may cause redundancy in medication consumption. For example, foods high in vitamin K will render blood thinning medications ineffective when consumed because it promotes blood clotting.
- Solution: Pharmacists or specialists consulted should be notified about all the medications or supplements taken by your loved one to ensure a proper prescription is given. If there are any warning labels or instructions that come with the medications given, do give them a thorough read and ensure your loved one is notified about them. Your doctor or specialist that takes care of your loved one should also be addressed should there be any concerns about food and drug interactions.
- You’re going the wrong way!
- Problem: There have been instances where medications were rendered ineffective after a certain period of time due to wrong drug administration route. For example, not all pills are meant to be consumed orally; some of them are meant to be taken sublingually. Some patients might also opt for consuming liquids that are meant to be administered intravenously due to fear of needles or injections.
- Solution: If there are any usage instructions that come with the medications given, do give them a thorough read and ensure your loved one is notified about them. Guidance should also be provided to your loved one in the event that they are unsure on how to administer their medication or if they require assistance.