Saying “no” to taking too many drugs is something many seniors must learn to do or perhaps face serious health consequences, experts say.
According to Health Research Funding, research shows adverse side effects from taking multiple drugs are responsible for 700,000 emergency room visits per year.
Just a few include falling, insomnia, agitation, forgetfulness, confusion, loss of appetite and depression.
HRF says scores of senior citizens are more likely to be prescribed several different drugs for a multitude of health issues than people outside of that age group. Further, nearly 40 percent of elderly adults living in their own homes are prescribed five or more medications.
To help in curtailing this problem and also promote education about this issue, the national Home Instead Senior Care organization recently launched its Let’s Talk about Rx program offering families free resources, tips and insight into potential medication pitfalls facing seniors.
“We encourage High Desert residents who are caretakers to have conversations with their families about this issue because we now know that a senior’s ability to remain independent in their homes is greatly dependent on their ability to manage their medications,” said Brandi Johnson, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Victorville.
“Our health professionals also play a key role in helping seniors manage their medications when they are hired to take care of an elderly person in their home. They do everything from reminding them what time to take their meds to making sure a senior is taking the proper doses.”
The practice of taking multiple medications has been called polypharmacy, according to HRF. The organization estimates the average number of prescriptions taken by individuals between ages 65 and 69 is around 14.
For seniors over 80, that number rises to around 18, which is why statistics for adverse reactions are more prevalent among the elderly.
According to Johnson, drugs most likely to cause adverse reactions are blood thinners, oral hypoglycemic agents, antibiotics and insulin.
“Just having a list of what a senior is taking is very helpful,” said Johnson. “We recommend putting that together asap so it’s easier for the caretaker to monitor what’s going on. There also are apps for making these lists, as well. Today’s technology offers a lot of great tools.”
Johnson says the dangers of taking a combination of prescription drugs can be lessened by utilizing services such as Simple MedsSM, a company that packages medications and vitamins in single-dose packs.
“The packs are wonderful because every pill that must be taken at the same time is put into a little bag,” said Johnson. “This system makes it so much easier to monitor a senior’s medication schedule and there’s little chance a mistake will be made.”
In order to prevent an ill-effect of polypharmacy escalating into a life-threatening issue, Johnson recommends caretakers frequently remind their patients about the importance of keeping them informed if they begin to experience even the slightest of unusual symptoms.
For more information, visit www.letstalkaboutrx.com. Visit Home Instead Senior Care at www.homeinstead.com.