Take These Steps to Avoid Overmedication and Adverse Medication Reactions in Seniors

Take These Steps to Avoid Overmedication and Adverse Medication Reactions in Seniors
A woman who wants to prevent overmedication and adverse medication reactions in seniors studies a prescription pill bottle carefully.

Taking too much or too little of a medication or taking it the wrong way can lead to adverse medication reactions in seniors.

The days of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” have morphed into “take two of these…and two of these…and maybe one of those, too!” Nearly forty percent of seniors are taking at least five different prescription medications each day – not to mention vitamins, supplements, and OTC meds. It is easy to understand why overmedication and adverse medication reactions in seniors are extremely common.

Take these actions to avoid medication problems for someone you love:

  • Make a list, and check it twice. Create a list of every one of the medications – both over-the-counter and prescription – that the person is currently taking. Share the list with all of their healthcare providers, and supply updated lists whenever there is a change in medications. Then at least twice a year, review the list along with their primary care physician to verify that all of the medications are essential and that current doses are optimal.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Ensure you fully understand what each medication is for, and confirm that there aren’t any contraindications with other medications the person is taking. The doctor or pharmacist can run their meds through a drug interaction database to confirm. If you are unclear about anything else pertaining to the medications prescribed, speak up. You’ll want to make sure you understand:
  • Exactly when as well as how the meds must be taken (i.e., with a full glass of water, on a full stomach, if they should be broken in half or crushed, etc.)
  • What the potential side effects may be   
  • Whether a generic version is available
  • How to handle if a dose is missed
  • And any other questions you may have
  • Set up a system. When you’ve confirmed that all of the older adult’s medications are necessary and you have the info you need to make sure they are taken correctly, create a system for following physicians’ orders. Depending on the person’s cognitive functioning, this may be as simple as a pill box that is filled weekly. Or you may want to count on the services of a home care provider, like Hired Hands Homecare, for medication reminders.

It’s also important to remember that a doctor should always be consulted before starting or changing any medications, including vitamins or over-the-counter meds. Some prescription medications are part of the same drug category as OTC meds, which may lead to an excessive amount of a medication being administered. In other cases, OTC medications or vitamins interact negatively with prescriptions.

We’re always available to help seniors remain healthy and safe. Reach out to us to learn more about our in-home care services in Novato, Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding areas, and how we can make life safer and more comfortable for someone you love.

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