Drugs and the Elderly: Is Your Loved One in Danger?

Elderly people often suffer from health conditions that require them to take lots of prescription drugs to maintain their health. Unfortunately, this puts them at special risk of medication-related illness. Seniors are especially susceptible to side effects from medication; they may also have complications due to drug interactions. If one of your elderly family members or friends is taking prescription medications, make sure you understand the risk factors and monitor their medications.

Serious Complications

Many prescription medications cause serious complications that older persons may mistake for minor illnesses or simple aging. For instance, according to our legal contributor, an anticoagulant medication that many seniors have been prescribed often causes them to have gastrointestinal distress. Many elderly people might just think their stomach doesn’t digest food as well because they are getting older when this is a very serious symptom that should not be ignored.

It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of potential complications so that you can contact the doctor or call 911 if necessary. Everyday symptoms that may seem minor, such as stomach problems can be a sign of internal bleeding or of an impending heart attack.

Drug Interactions

Since the elderly are on so many prescription drugs, they’re at greater risk for drug interactions. Pharmacists usually monitor prescriptions for interactions with each other, but over-the-counter drugs aren’t monitored like this. It’s important that you monitor your loved one’s use of drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen.

Missed Doses

Some drugs alter the body’s chemistry so that missing a dose can lead to serious side effects. If your loved one misses a dose of one of these medications, he or she may need emergency treatment. For example, some medications may cause blood pressure to skyrocket if they aren’t taken regularly.  Anyone who takes prescription medication may be at risk for side effects from missed doses, but this is a particular problem among elderly people. Some may have a hard time remembering to take medication on time. Monitoring their medication use can help ensure they don’t get seriously ill from forgetting to take their medications.

The Importance of Advocacy

It’s important to research your loved one’s prescription medications. Doctors can’t possibly stay current on all medications they prescribe when they see a lot of patients and prescribe hundreds of medications. Your doctor may not be aware of new research demonstrating that a drug has dangerous side effects or interactions.

Whenever your loved one is prescribed a medication, research it online before filling the prescription to find out whether there are any new studies demonstrating that this drug is dangerous. If you find something that concerns you, contact the doctor right away and find out if there is an alternative medication he or she can prescribe instead. This not only helps your loved one, but helps the doctor stay informed so that he or she doesn’t prescribe the medication inappropriately in the future.  In addition to reading studies, you might want to regularly read about any lawsuits against drug companies. Most lawsuits occur when a drug has negatively affected many people’s lives. Reading about lawsuits can help you become more aware of drug dangers.

As people age, they often need more medical help because of serious illnesses such as diabetes or cancer. It’s important to stay informed and to monitor prescription drug use so that your loved one doesn’t develop a worse problem from his or her medication.