People are living longer lives than ever before. This can largely be attributed to us leading healthier lifestyles that include getting adequate exercise and partaking in diets low in saturated fat. But another reason for our greater longevity is modern medicine. Scientists continue to make incredible strides, creating pharmaceuticals that help to regulate previously soaring blood pressure, assist diabetics to process sugar more efficiently, and calm the crippling pain of arthritis.
But what if the very thing that was designed to help keep your elderly parent healthy, was actually hurting her?
According to the National Institute of Health, though people 65 and older currently make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for over one-third of all outpatient drug prescriptions. Nearly one-half of these patients are taking three or more medications regularly. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that between 1997 – 2008, the number of people ages 65 -84 who were admitted into hospitals for conditions stemming from prescription and non-prescription drug use increased by 96 percent.
The abuse and misuse of prescription drugs by seniors has become a fast-growing and life-threatening issue that can lead to falls, car accidents and other incidents that could cause severe health complications, or worse.
How does this problem occur in the first place? The National Institute on Drug Abuse points to a number of potential factors that can come into play. Elderly patients often tend to be prescribed long-term medications, which when combined with multiple prescriptions can lead to the inappropriate use of medicines. Cognitive impairment can also complicate things for the patient. And the NIH explains that another cause of drug misuse among seniors is economic: many on fixed incomes may share medications when they cannot afford their prescriptions.
Another reason for drug misuse and abuse is simple: pain. Those who experience much of it may up their prescribed doses, take medicine when it is not needed, or mix it with alcohol: a more common occurrence in those who also live with depression. Quick note: the National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that medicines for pain (opioids) and anxiety or insomnia (benzodiazepines) are actually some of the most-abused prescription drugs in the country.
FamilyDoctor.org provides a list of symptoms to look out for if you suspect that your elderly loved one may be using prescription medications inappropriately. It includes:
- Obtaining the same prescription from two doctors;
- Filling a prescription at more than one pharmacy;
- Storing or hiding medicine;
- Becoming defensive about taking more of it;
- Having a past that includes addictive behavior.
Talk to the physician(s) who prescribed the medications. Learn what they are for, and how often they should be taken. If there is a real problem, seek help via a counselor or specialist who can guide you and your parent through treatment options.
When taken properly, prescription medications can greatly improve the life quality of your elderly loved one. As with any substance however, when abused or misused, they can become a nightmare. Do your loved one and yourself a favor. Become informed enough to know the difference.
There is so much to think about when entering the later stages of life. If you are considering elder care options, we at 805Aging can help. Our professional staff specializes in assisting you to choose the right kind of care for your loved one.
We conduct regular check-ins when you are unable to do so. 805Aging also provides oversight and detailed feedback to the family to keep your loved one safe and well-cared for day or night, weekday or weekend, holiday and every day.
We have the resources. We can hold your hand. We can guide you. Your peace of mind is our main goal, and is well assured. To find out more, call us at 805-750-4755 or visit our website and sign up for our monthly newsletter: www.805Aging.com.
There is no manual on how to take care of your parents as they age. They had a baby book when you were young. You have us. -Amy