Senior Health: A Word of Caution about Medications

Jul 12th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

If you are one of the senior citizens over 65 who take five or more meds a day, you will want to read this article.  Our primary care physicians always warn us about medication side effects; pharmacists warn us, and the printed material that comes with the medication warns us.  And additional warnings tell us about drug interactions and the problems that can result from that.

Now there is a new and very real medication issue that we need to learn about.  It’s called polypharmacy–clinical language that describes the use of numerous and potentially unnecessary prescription medications.  Researchers are now telling us this may be the primary reason for heightened risk of drug complications in seniors.

  • The risk for adverse medication problems increases with age.  We seniors tend to take more meds than our younger counterparts.  And our bodies metabolize drugs less efficiently, which means we are at greater risk to have drug interaction problems (when one med affects the way another med works).
  • If you have a fever or rash, diarrhea, difficulty getting your breath and increase or decrease in your heart rate, you may be having a bad reaction to a medication.  Major reactions are seizures and anaphylactic shock and those require immediate medical attention.  And drowsiness or dizziness can be reactions to drug-interaction issues that can be especially problematic for us seniors.
  • The big issue here is when we seniors get meds from different doctors, they need to know what other meds we take to avoid the potential for serious drug interactions.

So here’s what we need to do:  When we go to a new doctor or medical office, we need to be sure to tell them about all the medications we are taking, including prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs and vitamins/minerals/supplements.  Take them with you if you need to be sure you have them all identified.

Second, we need to be sure our Primary Care Physician (the one you go to the most) knows about all the medications we are taking, including those prescribed by someone other than the PCP.

We seniors can’t be too careful when it comes to being sure our medications are helping us, and not causing more health issues because they are fighting with each other unbeknownst to us.

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