Danger! Prescription Medications and Our Elderly

There is a danger lurking behind every smiling face of our aging elder’s professional caregivers. I believe it is a subject that kills and damages many of our senior citizens every year.  This danger is drug reactions and over medicating the elderly.

This isn’t something any professional caregiver would ever, consciously, attempt to do.  Let’s look at the situation from a different light.

The United States, at this present moment, has exceptional health care.  Many elderly people have more than one doctor.  They may see their cardiologist for their heart condition, the pulmonary doctor for their lungs, and they see their internist for their diabetes.  Each doctor prescribes a different medication for each illness.  Unless the elder person or their caregiver is extremely vigilant, over medication or conflicting medication can happen easily.

This is the age of the 24 hour pharmacy.  This is a fantastic concept, except when it replaces the individual care a pharmacist can give.  Our elderly, when placed in a large drugstore situation, can be lost in the crowd of customers.

My husband’s grandfather was a pharmacist.  He lived in a small town in Minnesota.  At that time, there weren’t many “miracle” drugs.  He could spot a problem with a patients medication before it reached the patient’s hand.  Today, there’s so many new drugs introduced every day and pharmacists have their hands full with many patients.

What can we do about this?  We, the informal caregiver, has to be ever vigilant when it comes to their medications.  We are the last line of defense when it comes to our aging loved one.  Each senior patient should always have a current list of their medications on them at all times.  It needs to be updated as medications are added and removed.  This includes supplements.

Speaking of supplements, this is a gray area.  I say gray, because some people believe in them and some don’t.  Most supplements are not tested by the FDA.  They live in a world unto their own.  The problem with supplements is, they can react with a RX and cause serious damage to an already compromised physical condition.

I’m one of the caregivers for my mother-in-law.  I’m the doctor person.  I’m the logical choice in my husband’s family because I have spent the last 15 years being the only child in town with my parents and so I became their sole informal caregiver.

I call my mother-in-law Mom2.  She is a big believer in supplements, which I have no problem with.  When she developed “Afib” the cardiologist put her on Coumadin.  He carefully looked over her medications and supplements she was taking.  He took away her green tea, cranberry pills, and flax seed oil.  They are natural blood thinners and taking them would compromise the regulation of the Coumadin.

It is easy for our senior citizens to get over medicated.  New wonder drugs emerge every day.  Drug reps are introducing the doctors to them in droves.  Do we always know the reactions of these drugs?

Every night on television there are drug commercials.  The first 1/3 of the commercial is dedicated to the benefits of the drug and the last 2/3 is telling you the terrible side effects.  Take those particular side effects and add them to several other drugs……could that be a recipe for disaster?

Mom2 was diagnosed with diabetes and congestive heart failure.  She is on many medications to control these two conditions.  For the past 8 years she has been experience occasional dizzy spells.  The doctors always put it off on lower blood pressure which is something she experiences due to the medications to keep the pressure down inside her heart.

Quite suddenly, she started falling down every day, a couple of times a day.  She blacked both eyes, broke her nose, bone bruise on her hip, among other smaller injuries.  Falling down is not a good thing for a Coumadin patient.   Long story short….after numerous tests, they took her off 6 different medications and the problem is now less sever.

I don’t know about you, but I live a very busy life.  I don’t have time to research every drug.  Does that exonerate me from research and being in the “know” on her medications.  Absolutely not!  Thank God for the Internet.  Here are a couple of websites to use when researching medications.

The Beers list, from Duke University,  is a great place to find out how the drug should be used and what the drug does and what the side effects are.  It isn’t the total nirvana of drug sites, but it is a good start for you.

Another great site is “The Family Practice notebook.com”.  This site has information on medications and also different geriatric issues.

When dealing with our much loved old people, as with anyone else, remember never, ever, ever, ever discontinue a medication without consulting their doctor, to receive their approval and direction.  Always keep their doctor informed of any changes you notice in your elder.  Be ever vigilant to changes in behavior.

Care giving isn’t an easy, fall off the log, duty.  It is fraught with many obstacles and information.  But, having said that, it is, also, one of the most rewarding things a person can do.  You may have stumbled across this website doing your due diligence and research.  I applaud you!!!  My heart is with you.

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