"Any symptom in an elderly patient should be considered a drug side effect until proved otherwise." - Gurwitz et al. Long-Term Care Quality Letter, Brown University, 1995
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Advances in medicine have improved our quality of health and life, and even extended our life spans. Medications give us the ability to treat and cure diseases, relieve pain, and even diagnose certain diseases. That's all good. But the bad news is that the wrong combination or the wrong doses of medication can cause serious problems, including permanent injuries and even death. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to adverse drug side effects.
Know the Drill About Every Pill
Talk to your parents' or loved ones' physician and pharmacist about every prescription and over-the-counter medication, including any herbal or natural remedies, including vitamins and minerals, they're taking. Always ask the physician or pharmacist about any possible drug interactions. And share information about any allergies or new symptoms. Keep a detailed up to date list of each drug and the date the patient began taking it, along with any reactions, symptoms, and changed behaviors. Include all vitamins, herbal, and homeopathic remedies. Don't forget to include "social drugs" such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the medication history. Keep discontinued drugs on the list as well, along with reasons for stopping them.
Medication-Related Problems to Look For:
- Parkinson's-like symptoms
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
- Memory loss
Your Diligence Makes all the Difference
Follow all directions and read all the fine print on packaging and enclosures. Watch for any changes in your loved one. And never change a dosage without first consulting the doctor.