What Seniors Need to Know About Medications

 

One of the most common causes of poisoning among seniors is accidental medication overdose. Statistics show that while adults over 65 years of age represent only 13 percent of the total population, they consume more than 30 percent of all prescribed medications and 40 percent of all over-the-counter medications.

Another study reports that the average person over 65 takes between two and seven prescription medications daily. Taking multiple medications can sometimes lead to adverse interactions. Some of the most common adverse effects suffered by seniors include bleeding from blood-thinners (warfarin/coumadin), bruising and gastrointestinal bleeding from excess ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and falls or accidents from the effects of antihistamines, sleeping aids and other sedatives. While all medications pose a risk of accidental poisoning if taken in the wrong amount or by the wrong person, some medications have the potential for being particularly harmful. These include:

  • Heart and Blood Pressure Medication
  • Diabetes Medications
  • Tranquilizers and Sedatives
  • Pain Relievers
  • Iron Pills, including Vitamins
  • Cough and Cold Medicines

 In fact, 1/3 of the 177,504 emergency room visits for adverse drug events by people over 65 years were from reactions to Coumadin, insulin and digoxin (heart medication).

Medication Safety Tips For Seniors:

  • If you are taking two or more medications, be sure to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist to avoid unexpected drug interactions. Also discuss any herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications you may be taking
  • Avoid dosage errors — use dosage containers indicating day of the week and/or time of the day; don't leave it to memory
  • Know what foods may interact with your medications
  • Grapefruit juice, for example, is known to interact with certain medications
  • Request that medicine labels be printed in large type
  • Check with your pharmacist before splitting pills, even if they are scored. Some pills may lose their long-acting effect when split
  • Bring all medications with you to each doctor visit
  • Avoid taking medicines too close together
Created on January 1, 2003

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