Common medication issues with the elderly and how to solve them

April 23

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.

More about Home Caregiving:

Self-care for Caregivers. Guest blog by care expert, Harry Cline

Caregiving is rewarding but stressful. According to a 2015 study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the AARP Public Policy Institute, nearly 40 million U.S. adults have provided unpaid care for another adult in the past 12 months.

Because caregiving carries a unique set of challenges that can wreak havoc on your body, spirit, and mental health, treat yourself with kindness when feelings of anger, stress, frustration, and depression threaten to overwhelm you and cause burnout.

Those emotions are normal — and when you’re stressed, it’s important not to self-medicate with addictive substances but rather to take a step back. Breathe. Give yourself permission to step away and take care of yourself.

Signs It’s Time to Take a Break to Prevent Burnout

If you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be time to step away for a little while.

  • Exhaustion

  • Forgetfulness

  • Anxiety or depression

  • Stomach issues, headaches, or other physical symptoms of stress

  • Increased illnesses

  • Using substances to self-medicate

Why Self-Care Is Essential

You might be an able-bodied “I’ve got it together” person who’s capable of doing it all. However, that doesn’t mean you should. There’s no shame in asking for help. Otherwise:

  1. You may not be able to care for your loved one. When you neglect your own self-care, your health can diminish, leaving you unable to act as a caregiver.

  2. Your quality of life may decrease and you may lose friends, especially if you’re part of the “sandwich generation,” where you’re raising a family and taking care of an older parent and have little time to spare.

  3. You might not live as long. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people experience caregiver stress and strain are 63 percent more likely to die prematurely than non-caregivers.

Give Yourself Permission to Be Selfish

Has it been so long since you thought about yourself that you’re not sure where to start? Feeling guilty about spending too much time on self-care? These ideas may help.

Take regular breaks. Whether you’re spending the majority of a day caring for someone else or working a full-time job and then assuming caregiving duties in the evening, take breaks throughout the day and evening.

Stay active. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of activity three or more times a week. Hit the gym for a spin class. Schedule an evening “walk date” with your partner, neighbor, or friends. Want something a little more low-key to help you relax? Try yoga or tai chi.

Eat well. It’s so tempting to grab and live on fast food when you’re rushing from one place to the next. But healthy, nutritious food keeps your energy up, boosts your immune system, and helps maintain a healthy weight.

Sleep. Don’t skip sleep -- it’s critical to feeling well physically, mentally, and emotionally. Create a sleep routine that works for you; if you’re feeling cramped on time, claim the hour or 30 minutes before you sleep as yours for a warm bath, a cup of tea, meditation, or a good book.

Stay connected to friends. Laughter’s the best medicine — it’s cliche, but true. And sometimes, it’s all that keeps you from crying. Reach out to your tribe and build your network. Even if it’s a flurry of funny texts or a running conversation on Facebook Messenger, it’s a connection to the outside world that keeps you from feeling isolated.

Take time off. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help. That includes connecting with an agency that provides respite care or coordinating and sharing caregiving duties with other family members, trusted friends, or members of your church community, for example. Time away to do something you love gives you an opportunity to recharge and refresh your whole self.

Need other suggestions? Check out these self-care tips designed to help you avoid caregiver burnout. For additional resources on caregiving, whether you’re preparing to start or have cared for someone for a while, visit this site, which lists organizations with a wealth of information on supporting those who need help while not neglecting your own self-care.


Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

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June 08

Fun things caregivers can do with elderly to keep their bodies and minds active

There comes a time in everyone’s lives when they start aging and eventually are forced to retire at a certain age whether by choice or from the lack of characteristics they once had. When the time comes though, most of the elderly population tend to have more free time in their hands to carry out many activities daily. However, even if they have all that free time to spend, they might not possess the physical or mental strength they used to have in their younger years to enjoy such activities anymore (e.g. extreme sports or exercises). In addition to that, as mentioned in previous blog posts, as you age your health may start to decline and many illnesses or conditions may present themselves and affect your body. Most families that face this problem tend to hire a caregiver to take care of their loved one while the family members go out to work or carry out their daily responsibilities. With that being said, some elderly citizens do not have illnesses or conditions that leave them bedridden but are just in need of some company from the caregiver while they continue being independent. Therefore, a certain level of cooperation is required from both the caregiver and the one being cared for to ensure both parties are satisfied and happy with each other in doing what they want. Here are some fun things caregivers can do with the elderly to keep their bodies and minds active while maintaining a healthy relationship with each other.

  • Outdoor activities
    Staying cooped up at home for long periods of time without much to do is not a healthy choice of life and may lead to depression in some severe cases. Whether your loved one is a physically active person or not, it is good to enjoy the great outdoors once in a while and breathe some fresh air for a change. They do not necessarily have to do any heavy duty activities like hiking or cycling but simple activities like taking a walk, doing some tai chi or gardening would be beneficial to the body. Although some people are worried that their elderly loved ones will be more prone to injuries in the outdoors, outdoor activities can actually strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of falling. In addition to that, the caregiver can assist or keep an eye on your loved one to ensure they do not get harmed in any way.

  • Socializing
    As you get older you tend to reminisce on the good times in your life, and more often than not you start to wonder about your friends or relatives that you were once close to, but rarely keep in touch now. Free time from either retirement or recovery periods can be used to re-establish friendships with former acquaintances. Your loved one can be encouraged to get in touch with their old friends and have meetups over tea or meals with the aid of a caregiver. This helps to make them feel less isolated, from being left with a caregiver, as well as to improve their morale and self-esteem.

  • Arts and crafts
    Most of the senior citizens in this era usually come from a generation that have either lived with less technology or have gone went through a period of technological transition over the years. This eventually led them to cultivate hobbies such as gardening, drawing, sewing, knitting and many more. Motivating your loved ones to try arts and crafts will promote creativity and bring back the nostalgia of their childhood days. Even if arts and crafts were not part of their childhood years, it is a good time to start learning or trying new things. This new learning adventure could lead them to make nice presents during the festive seasons, or even better still, to initiate a new business opportunity during their golden years!

  • Games and puzzles

Caregivers can engage senior citizens by challenging them to a few board games or puzzles to keep their minds active. Most board games or puzzles produced by companies are usually user-friendly and have relatively simple rules or game instructions that is not difficult for the elderly to follow. Another plus point would be that most of them are pretty portable to bring around so they can be played anywhere and with anyone.

May 14