Senior medication safety suggestions
Are you concerned about the amount of prescription medications that are on your parent’s medication list and whether or not the continued use of chronic medication is appropriate? It is a reasonable thought, considering the possible side effects when you take medications. Research has shown that “inappropriate prescribing” is common in older adults. Some medications have risks that may be greater than their benefits for people aged 65 or more.
As we get older, our bodies change, and since elderly people generally take more medications than younger people, the chance of drug to drug interactions increases. With increasing numbers of people waiting to see doctors, it is possible for a doctor to miss the identification of a risk, and this is where you could help. The American Geriatrics Society has created a list of drugs that have potentially inappropriate medication risks in older adults, called the Beer’s Criteria.
To help your doctor spot oversights, there are five things you can do:
- List all medications your parent is taking, together with their reason for needing them. A pharmacist will be able to help you check for medications that serve more than one purpose.
- If the purpose of the medication was to control a symptom, it may be that the symptom needs to be checked again. If use of the medication has not caused an improvement, then the dosage or the medication itself may need to be changed. Auto pilot is fine for aircraft, but keeping to a dosage should be a conscious decision.
- Check the medications are not on the above Beer’s Criteria by using your browser’s search feature. If you do find it on the list, ask the doctor about any non-drug techniques that may be used as an alternative.
- Check for any signs of over-treatment. Conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes need to be monitored to ensure that the dosage remains appropriate. Over-treatment of high blood pressure can cause a blood pressure that is too low, resulting in dizziness, which could cause a fall.
- Check for signs of interaction between drugs. There are free online drug interaction checking web sites that can help.
HealthCare works best when it is a partnership between patients, family caregivers and medical practitioners, and requesting a medication review will ensure that your parent is handled in the best possible way. Senior Support is an organisation that can help with call centre support and emergency call out support if that is what you require.
Senior medication safety checklist by Leslie Kernisan MD, a practicing geriatrician.