The solution to common medication issues with the elderly

Your immune system declines as you age. (Image credit: rawpixel.com)

Your immune system declines as you continue to age leaving your body more vulnerable to infections.

This causes quite a number of health issues, requiring you to take more medication and supplements to compensate for the weak immune response.

However, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad; the same goes for medication. The need to consume a wide variety of medications to maintain your health can be a challenging and tiresome effort.

In addition to that, elderly patients have a lower metabolism and are unable to metabolize the drugs out of their system as fast as their younger counterparts.

Here are some common medication issues related to the elderly and ways to solve them in order to prevent any harm from occurring.

• Bite off more than you can chew

Problem: Have you ever heard an elderly person tell you to eat or drink more healthy because it’s supposedly good for you? The same thing applies when it comes to medication for the elderly.

For example, some consume paracetamol even for a minor headache that can go away with a bit of rest.

What some of them do not understand is that medication is good for the body if taken in moderation or whenever necessary to prevent accidentally overdosing themselves.

Solution: Medication prescription should be monitored as well as watching out for signs of overdose such as oversedation, mood swings and running out of medication at a fast rate.

Medicine should be clearly labelled in pillboxes. (Image credit: rawpixel.com)

• Mixing up medication

Problem: Prescribed medication sometimes have similar names to each other especially when the prescriptions are written with small fine print. Besides the immune system, other systems of the body are usually affected as we age, such as deterioration of vision and memory.

Vision loss, such as long or short sightedness and astigmatism, can cause you to misread the labels or prescription.

In addition to that, memory loss will make you forget to take your medication on time or even to accidentally take an additional dose.

Solution: Medications that need to be taken should be kept well organized in pill dispensers labelled with the day and time of consumption.

It will also be good to have someone with you such as a caregiver, nurse or even a family member or close family friend who can monitor the medication consumption in case there are any changes in terms of consumption time or dosage taken.

• Drug interactions

Problem: As it is usual that the elderly tend to take a wide range of medications for their health, there is no doubt some of those medications have to be taken at the same time each day (one pill three times a day after meals).

Some medications are not meant to be mixed and most of the time family members with minimal medical-related background will be unaware of this. In addition, some families get medications prescribed at various pharmacies.

They tend to consult various pharmacists or specialists who do not have prior knowledge or the history of medications consumed by their loved one. Besides that, food and drug interactions may cause redundancy in medication consumption.

For example, food high in vitamin K will render blood thinning medications ineffective when consumed because it promotes blood clotting.

Solution: Pharmacists or specialists consulted should be notified about all the medications or supplements you take to ensure a proper prescription is given.

If there are any warning labels or instructions that come with the medications given, do give them a thorough read and ensure your loved one is notified about them.

Your doctor or specialist who takes care of your loved one should also be informed should there be any concerns about food and drug interactions.

  • You’re going the wrong way!

Problem: There have been instances where medications are rendered ineffective after a certain period of time due to wrong drug administration route. For example, not all pills are meant to be consumed orally; some of them are meant to be taken sub lingually.

Some patients might also opt for consuming liquids that are meant to be administered intravenously due to fear of needles or injections.

Solution: If there are any usage instructions that come with the medications given, do give them a thorough read and ensure your loved one is notified about them.

Guidance should also be provided to your loved one in the event that they are unsure about how to administer their medication or if they require assistance.

This article was written by Andrew Mastrandonas, Co-founder & CEO of Pillar (www.pillarcare.com) and reviewed by Dr Lim Geng Yan (MD). Pillar provides a range of elderly home caregiving services, sending trained and certified professional caregivers and nurses to clients’ homes.