Are Supplements safe for the Elderly?

There is a lot of mixed messages in the medical field in regards to supplements.  I know I, personally, have heard doctors say many different things.  When it comes to vitamin supplements, some doctors believe in them and some think spending money on them is a waste.

We are bombarded daily on TV with many medical drug ads.  In this onslaught, vitamin supplements are right in there pitching with the rest of them.  I’m neither pro or con.  I do use some supplements such as calcium.  I take a multivitamin every day.  I take vitamin C when I feel a cold coming on.  I’ve even been known to take zinc when a cold or flu is trying to rear it’s ugly head and take over my great health.

What I do feel strongly about is, there are too many supplements being taken by our senior citizen population.  When an older person starts to realize the Grim Reaper may only be a few years away, or they are watching their peers dealing with life threatening health issues, the proclamations made by the vitamin supplement industry can have a siren call.  Take this and you will have better joint health, heart health, better memory, save yourself from the raves of free radicals, etc.  You know the drill.

I am the “doctor person” for my mother-in-law. Meaning, I go with her to every doctor’s appointment.  I have had years of experience in elder care and doctor visits under my belt.  Like a responsible person, she always has an updated list of her current medications and her vitamin supplements.  The vitamin supplement list is longer than the prescription list!

When the doctor asks her why she takes a certain supplement, she says she heard it was good for her.  In this long list of supplements, only the calcium and vitamin D3 were prescribed by one of her doctors.

There is a danger to supplements.  They can react with the prescription medications.  They can enhance them or render a prescription dosage null and void. They can even cause life threatening chemical imbalances.  Did you know, fish oil taken by an elderly person can leach the potassium out of their systems?  If they are taking a diuretic which, also, does the same thing, this can be a threat to their lives.

This past February, she began to fall down, several times a day.  Not small crashes and burns, but life threatening ones!  She broke her nose, gashed her head, received a fist sized bone bruise on her hip, along with other smaller contusions.  Any one of the spills could have cost her her life due the Coumadin she was taking for heart fibrillation.

In all of the drugs and supplements she was taking, she had several which were working against each other.  They were making her blood pressure drop, reeking havoc with her blood sugars, causing dizziness, and making her head a magnet for the carpet!

Supplements can be dangerous if the person taking them isn’t completely educated on what they can do.  It is, also, an industry not supervised by the Federal Drug Administration.

I know I sound as though I am contradicting myself when I say, there are a lot of supplements which could replace many pharmacy drugs.  The problem is, are we really sure they are pure?  Do we know how they will react in our Senior’s drug regiment?

I believe, many elderly people have several different doctors treating them at all times.  It is difficult to keep all of their Rx’s straight.  The down side of all this, they become over medicated.  Then, we add the triple whammy of the unknown effects of the supplements.  A true recipe for disaster!

It took 2 weeks in the hospital to get my mother-in-law back to standing on her feet again.  Four different prescription were removed from her daily regiment.  Several more supplements were put on the “do not take” list.

If your beloved senior is having a lot of health challenge such as mine, it may be time to careful look over the drug regiment with their doctors.  You might find, as we did, they are over medicated.  You may find, in addition to that, their Rx’s and the supplements are conducting a non supervised war with each other at your loved ones expense.  In any case, it doesn’t hurt to check it out.

In the case of my mother-in-law, I am happy to report, since she has been weened off 4 of her medications and some of the supplements, she hasn’t felt this good in a long time.  She has pep in her step again!

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6 Responses to “Are Supplements safe for the Elderly?”

  1. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!

  2. pastilutza says:

    an interesting article. Supplements may help elders if the dosage is right for them. There are some boosters that could help you maintain focus. I myself used some of them and one that really helped me was Focus Factor. I found out about it from . You can try it and see if it helps you to.

    • Nan McAdam says:

      You make a valid point about supplements helping the elderly. I believe the key is to keep their doctor and pharmacist informed about each individual vitamin and herbal supplement that is being used. After breast cancer surgery, my mother-in-law lost most of her hair. She wanted to take Biotin to help return her system to be “hair friendly”. We talked with the pharmacist and he looked it up on his computer program and said she could take it with her current medication, but to take it opposite of her thyroid medication. Some herbal medications such as St. Johns Wort react adversely with heart medications. It’s always important to stay informed, before starting any supplements.

  3. zynga chips says:

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  4. Georgann says:

    Is there really a way to take something that helps your brain? I have tried a lot of different vitamins and exercises but it is hard to tell if it is really working!

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