According to the AARP, one of the top reasons older adults are admitted into hospitals is because of:
Medication problems. Drug reactions of some sort led to 1.9 million hospital stays in 2008. Medications most commonly involved: corticosteroids, blood thinners, sedatives and sleep aids.
The unpredictability of a senior’s response to drugs is worrisome: adverse drug reactions can produce rapid and severe illness. The way a senior responds to a prescription may be altered by impairment of the liver, kidneys and brain, or acute illness, or both. Self-medication with both prescribed and over-the-counter drugs can also increase the chances of adverse interactions between drugs.
According to the Office of Inspector General:
One-third of the elderly always comply, one-third sometimes comply, and one-third never comply with their prescription medication regimens…
23% of admissions to one nursing home were directly due to patient inability to manage medications at home.
Educate Before You Medicate created the Medication Use Safety Training (MUST) program to help combat these preventable hospital admissions. Education is a good start, but much more needs to be done. The elderly population is at great risk for medication-related problems as a result of age-related physiological changes, the presence of multiple chronic diseases and conditions, and the types and numbers of prescription and nonprescription medications they consume. In the US, as many as 200,000 people may die of medication-related problems each year.
Pharmacists and physicians are directly responsible for making sure their patients are educated about the drugs they prescribe, but they don’t know what is happening outside of their care. For in-home care, caregivers can help provide medication reminders, monitor health, provide nutrition that fits pharmaceutical requirements and make sure everything is in order.
If you worry that a friend or loved one might be abusing or misusing their prescriptions, they need help. Whether it comes from you, their family or their doctor, the sooner they receive help, the better off they will be in the long term.