Overmedication and the Elderly

When many people think about substance abuse and addiction, they usually do not think about their elderly loved one. However according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the elderly are at risk with usage statistics including the following:

  • Nearly three in 10 people between ages 57 to 85 use at least five prescriptions
  • Between 1997 and 2008 the rate of hospital admissions for conditions related to prescription medications and illicit drug use rose by 96 percent among people ages 65 and 84

Regardless of the fact that elderly people do not fit the profile of drug addicts, they nevertheless have unique problems when it to drug abuse.

Medication Misuse and Overmedication in the Elderly

Medication misuse can cause many harmful side effects, including drug-induced delirium and dementia. A person can be impacted physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically by overmedication or medication misuse. One of the primary risks for overmedication in an elder is the fact that she may take different medications from several physicians. Medical management suggests that a family member or younger friend keep a journal of the senior’s medical history. This journal may include the following information:

  • Days and times that the person experienced an ailment that required her to go to the doctor
  • What the doctor suggested, both medicinally and through alternative means
  • The person’s reaction to the prescribed medication
  • Date and time when the person no longer required the medication and no longer suffered with the ailment

This journal helps senior should they require future medical attention: they can simply take the journal with them so the new doctor can see the history and be aware of current medications.

Multiple Symptoms from Multiple Medications in the Elderly

As people age, they may experience different ailments due to bodily wear and tear. Therefore, a person who has led a healthy lifestyle, maintained a healthy weight, got plenty of sleep and exercised regularly may still experience issues such as joint pain, mild arthritis, bursitis or sciatica. Many physicians prescribe a mild painkiller to aid these issues.

However, these healthy seniors are not the norm in the United States. Instead, we have people of all ages suffering with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight and suffering with either anxiety or depression because of their health issues. For this population, you may have people who take as many as five different prescribed medications at one time.

Determining If a Senior Is at Risk of Overmedication

It is important for caregivers, family members and friends to be aware of any changes in the senior’s behavior or attitude that might suggest drug abuse. Some signs to look for include the following:

  • Does it appear he is taking the medication more often than prescribed?
  • Does he take more pills than suggested?
  • Has his mood changed?
  • Does he prefer to be alone?
  • Does he react negatively when you inquire about his medication?
  • Does he have a history of any form of alcohol or drug abuse?
  • Has he received the same medication from two different doctors?

Any one of these signs could indicate abuse and you need to take action.

Get Help for an Overmedicated Elderly Person

We know how difficult it is to monitor an elderly family member, but we can help you, so please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline any time. We can help you if you reach out for help.