Taking prescription medications is a major part of many seniors’ lives. In fact, most seniors are on one or more medications. While this is a crucial part of the health and wellbeing of countless seniors, taking numerous medications can sometimes pose health risks. In far too many instances, mistakes involving medication can lead to medical concerns including serious health complications or even death. With such serious implications, it is important to be aware of some of the most common mistakes older individuals may make while taking prescription medications.
Medication Mistakes Affecting Seniors
Taking too much or too little: When prescribed a certain medication, it is essential to take the correct dosage that was intended. Unfortunately, older individuals often take too much or too little of a prescription. There are a number of reasons why an elderly individual may take too much of a particular medication, whether intentional or not. Sometimes they may take too much because they forget they already took their medication, or they could simply be misinformed of the correct dose. Regardless, overdosing is the number one cause of medication-related fatalities.
In addition, seniors may not take enough of their medication. Older individuals could take too little of their medication for various reasons, such as being confused about the dosage requirements or simply forgetting to take the medication altogether. This can create dangerous issues, as many of these medications are vital to the health of the individual. If you suspect that your elderly loved one is taking too much or too little of their prescribed medication, it is important to address the issue with them directly or speak with their doctor about your concerns.
Forgetting to take a dose: For many seniors, aging includes increased problems with memory. These memory issues can manifest themselves in seniors forgetting to take their prescriptions. Skipping even one dose of certain medications can potentially create serious health concerns and cause dangerous side effects. While missing a dose of some medications may be harmless, forgetting a dose of other prescriptions can cause dangerous problems such as seizures or even heart failure. There are many ways to combat this problem, such as having a simple note on the fridge or organizing pills by day at the beginning of the week. However, the best method may depend on an individual’s unique needs.
Confusing medications with one another: Many prescriptions have such similar names or look so much alike that seniors may confuse one medication with another. This can be a serious problem for those with dementia or general memory problems. This mistake can cause seniors to take the incorrect medication on certain days or not take vital prescriptions on days when they are needed. Many times, this can be solved with a pill planner that divides medications up by days of the week, or by living in an assisted living facility where medications are distributed daily or multiple times per day.
Combining the wrong medications: Mixing certain prescriptions can sometimes have deadly side effects. Seniors are at a particularly high risk for this complication as they are often on many different medications that could be prescribed by different doctors. One of the main ways to prevent this type of mistake is to visit the same doctor and pharmacy for all medical visits so that they are aware of the medications a senior is currently taking. If this is not possible, it may be necessary to accompany a senior to their doctor’s office visits to ensure that the medical professional is fully knowledgeable of all of the medications they are on.
Combining medications with certain foods: While it is well known that mixing medications with things like alcohol can be dangerous, eating certain foods while taking some medications can be dangerous, as well. Although not discussed frequently, some foods can render prescriptions inactive if a patient eats them. For example, foods high in Vitamin C, such as spinach or broccoli, can cause blood thinning medicines to become ineffective. Another food product that can cause adverse effects on prescriptions is grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice inhibits an essential enzyme in the bloodstream that affects the way the liver absorbs certain medications. Even common foods such as coffee can potentially affect the way a medication is absorbed in an individual’s body. These potential problems involving food can be avoided by asking an elderly individual’s doctor if their medications can be taken with or without food or if any dietary restrictions are necessary.
As we age, taking more medications can be an unavoidable reality for many individuals. While many medications keep elderly individuals healthy and help manage acute and chronic health issues, medication mistakes can pose a serious threat to the overall wellbeing of a senior. As such, it is important for older individuals’ loved ones to be aware of these medication mistakes and to help seniors avoid them. If you believe that your loved one is not taking their prescriptions properly, it is crucial to voice your concerns to either the individual or their doctor to ensure that dangerous side effects do not occur.