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Top Medication Mistakes in Older Adults

Jun 08 2020

Anyone can face difficulties when it comes to taking prescribed medications, but for older adults these potential issues can be both more common and more dangerous. Here are some of the most common medication mistakes made and how to solve them:

Swallowing Problems

It can be particularly difficult for seniors to swallow medications, often due to health issues. This condition is known as ‘dysphagia’ – many individuals try to solve the problem themselves by chewing their tables or crushing them and mixing them into food or drinks. This can actually be dangerous depending on the type of medication, since some prescriptions are long-acting formulas (meaning they will be released too fast if broken) while other medications will simply be ineffective if consumed in this way. To be safe, always ask a doctor or pharmacist about each prescription and find out whether it is safe to do this (it usually isn’t) or if there is an alternative option (such as smaller pills or a liquid solution).

Confusing medications with one another

For any elders who suffer from impaired vision, it can be easy to misread the labels on medications or simply be unable to read them at all. This could potentially lead to misuse of their medications, which could prove dangerous. This is an issue with relatively simple solutions, such as asking about more accessible labels for prescriptions. A lot of pharmacies will be able to offer large print labels and even braille if needed. There are more advanced options available, too, including a microchip talking medication system. This allows users to have the important information about their various prescriptions read aloud to them.

Forgetting to take a dose

Older adults may also confuse their medications for other reasons, such as memory loss from dementia, and can even simply forget to take doses of important prescriptions. Solutions can range from simple pill boxes to organise their prescriptions if they are in the early stages, to computerized medication systems with automated dispensers and alarms. James Meas, a health writer at Draft beyond and Research papers UK, says: “Once seniors are in the more advanced stages of dementia, it is essential for someone else to be present to ensure they are taking the correct medications at the correct time.”

Taking too much or too little

When anyone is prescribed a medication, it is vital to only take the stated dosage – no more and no less. It is even easier for aging adults to accidentally take too much or too little of a medication for a range of reasons: they may forget they already took a dose, they may misread the label, they may mis-remember the doctor’s instructions, or they may have missed a dose and think that it is safe to take a double-dose. This can lead to countless potential issues, sometimes even fatal side effects. In the same way, older adults may not take enough of a certain medication, by forgetting a dose, being confused about the prescription or simply thinking they already took the dose. Solutions to this problem are the same as listed above.

Combining the wrong medications

For those taking multiple prescriptions, it can be easy to combine the wrong medications and suffer potentially dangerous side effects. This can happen easily if they are receiving prescriptions from multiple doctors and healthcare providers at the same time, so ensuring that they visit the same doctor and pharmacy regularly is vital. Lillie Bruce, a Medicare blogger at Writinity and Last minute writing, suggests: “If this is not possible, ensure that, at the very least, all prescriptions are discussed with one doctor even if they are being prescribed by different people.”

Combining medications with certain foods

A similar issue can arise if older adults are unaware of the dangers of combining certain foods with their medications. It is common knowledge that consuming alcohol can be problematic while on certain medications, but you should also ask doctors and pharmacists if there are any foods that will cause potentially adverse reactions.

Medication mistakes can pose serious health threats for seniors if they are not properly educated, monitored and assisted – but there are many ways you can help to prevent these issues. Most importantly, stay vigilant and communicate with your elderly loved ones.

Ashley Halsey is a professional writer at Luckyassignments.com and Gumessays.com who has been involved in countless projects with a range of companies throughout the country. As a mother of two children, Ashley enjoys traveling, reading, and attending business training courses to progress her career and better herself.