Anyone who has taken prescription medication understands that it normally includes an extensive listing of possible unwanted effects to watch for. While prescriptions are, naturally, meant to help us, the harm that can result from these adverse reactions can sometimes outweigh the benefit we receive.
For senior loved ones, most of whom take numerous medications, the chance of having an adverse reaction is increased. Nonetheless, remarkably, over 50% of all older adults in a recent study encountered adverse side effects from a medication without ever reporting them to their doctors. Even more startling: when these issues were reported, physicians did not always make note of them in the seniors’ medical records.
Seniors offered two main reasons for not revealing their medication complications:
- They assumed symptoms were merely a natural part of the aging process
- They did not want to bother their physicians
In another study, seniors age 70 and older were given a list of dozens of symptoms and asked whether they had experienced any of them over the last six months, along with whether or not they believed the symptoms could possibly be linked to their medication, if the symptoms had bothered them, whether they had mentioned the symptoms to their doctors, and if they had needed to be hospitalized as a result from the symptoms.
A full 78% of people who participated in the study revealed symptoms that were clinically determined to be side effects from a prescription drug. And just 39% of those seniors had mentioned their concerns to their doctors, with as few as 10% of the reported symptoms being documented in the seniors’ medical records.
These common medications for seniors, in particular, were reported to have widespread adverse reactions:
- Antithrombotic agents
- Cardiovascular drugs
- Beta-blocking agents
- Calcium channel blockers
- Serum lipid-reducing agents
Adverse reactions included bruising, bleeding, indigestion, muscle pain and weakness, dizziness/lightheadedness, coughing, and unsteadiness when standing.
Caitriona Cahir, PhD and a research fellow in the population health sciences division of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Dublin, recommends that seniors “be provided with concise information resources that describe the purpose of their medication and help them anticipate and recognize adverse drug events and seek appropriate treatment. Adverse drug event interviews with a nurse or pharmacist could be incorporated into patient medication reviews as part of a patient’s ongoing pharmacologic care.”
Grace Home Care can assist with caring for older parents and loved ones as well. Our caregivers provide an observant eye and ear for senior loved ones, to pick up on any problems or concerns and report them right away so they can be addressed. We also provide medication reminders, to make certain meds are taken precisely when and how prescribed, eliminating missed or doubled doses, which could also cause adverse reactions.