Using Medications Safely: Empowering Older Adults
According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2012 and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population (the report defined older population as age 65 and older). The baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase as they began turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, the surviving baby boomers will be over the age of 85.
The aging of the population has wide-ranging implications for the country. One of those implications is an increase in older adult medication misuse. That’s why the addiction services at JCFS Chicago, has developed an educational presentation to help those who work with older adults, adult children of aging parents and older adults themselves heighten their awareness and understanding about medication safety.
Medication misuse can be hard to detect in older adults because the symptoms may mimic the natural aging process or other health problems. It is vitally important to watch for warning signs and to take action if concerns are raised. The consequences of allowing possible medication misuse to continue include negative impacts on the management of other medical issues, the loss of independent living, and financial insecurity. Warning signs include:
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Withdrawal from family, friends, activities
- Rapid increase in the amount of medicine that is needed
- Very frequent refills
- “Doctor shopping” to get several prescriptions for the same medicine
How can an individual reduce his or her risk of misusing medications? By taking medications exactly as prescribed, by consulting with physicians if prescribed medications seem to be losing their effectiveness, and by doing a “brown bag check”: bringing all medications in their prescription bottles and any over the counter vitamins or herbal preparations to doctor visits. Sometimes one doctor may not be aware of what another has prescribed which can result in over-prescribing and dangerous drug interactions.