When Medications put Seniors at Risk
Aging Matters

Dr. Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D., PA-C, referred to as the president of FallPrevent, LLC. He lives in N.J. and owns a consulting firm that delivers services and education related to fall prevention. Dr. Tideiksaar specializes in working with the elderly patients and is a geriatric physician's assistant. In an article written by Dr. Rein, he gives useful advice to seniors who misuse prescription medications, warning that it could put them at risk.

According to Dr. Rein, "There is an epidemic of drug mishandling among elders that threatens their well-being." Since close to 90 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, many of them take at least one medication. If an individual does not follow the prescribed dosage, it could put their health at risk by causing mental and physical deficiencies. The main hazard is falling.

The various drugs often misused:

  • Anxiety and depression meds
  • Pain relievers
  • Sedatives for sleep disorders

How older adults mismanage the drugs:

  • Double dosing - They take too much because they forget they already took the meds.
  • Self-medicating. Often a person cannot afford the medication, so they take another person's medicine and because it's easier than going to the doctor. Or they take a drug that's expired.
  • They take an extra amount to "feel better." It happens with medications used to treat depression, anxiety or chronic pain. It can cause an overdose.
  • An individual may mix the prescription med while drinking alcohol. It's very dangerous due to the potential interactions. As a person ages, they require less alcohol to become intoxicated because the metabolism slows down.

Detecting misuse is hard enough but bringing it in conversation is awkward. It's uncomfortable to confront a parent, right? But If a loved one shows any one of these signs, Dr.Rein says it's time to have a discussion with the person's medical team about the medication problem:

  • if the individual demonstrates memory difficulties, after taking medication
  • if they become unsteady when walking or lose balance easily
  • if they have frequent falls
  • if they change sleeping practices
  • if they have unexplained bruising
  • if they become irritable, sad, or depressed
  • if they experience unexplained chronic pain

The Centers for Disease Control, report one in every three adults over 65 falls and the risk goes up with each decade. The consequences facing older adults is hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. The results significantly affect independence. But falls are preventable, and one of the first areas to lessen the risk is monitoring an adult's medication routine.

If you have a question about preventing falls, please email Dr. Rein at drrein@verizon.net.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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