People over 65 use more prescription medications than any other age group — and are at the highest risk for medicine-related complications. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 81% of people aged 57 through 85 take at least one prescription medication regularly. Nearly one-third regularly use at least five prescription medications. And that doesn’t include the over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements that are used regularly by nearly 50% of the study’s participants.
Although it is clearly a good thing that there are medicines to control chronic illness, but as the number of medications person takes goes up, the possible interactions between those medications goes up as well. And medication interactions cause nearly three-quarters of all “adverse events” that follow hospitalizations.
While pharmacy software monitors adverse interactions between prescription medications, the study found that half of all major drug interactions involved prescription medications being combined with over-the-counter drugs or nutritional supplements, something not analyzed by these programs.
The medications most commonly associated with a drug interaction that results in a hospital admission are:
- low-dose aspirin
- warfarin (Coumadin)
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve.
Note that only half of these are prescription medications.
The other major cause of adverse drug reactions is improper dosing for the patient’s age, weight, and medical condition. Kidney function, in particular, is important to assess when dosing medication properly.
What can you do to prevent drug interactions? Here are 6 tips:
- Show and Tell. When asked at a medical visit what medications you take, be sure to mention everything, even your mineral and vitamin supplements. Even better, bring along the bottles of everything you take on a regular basis, including your supplements and over-the-counter medications. Make sure your doctor has an up-to-date list of everything you take.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. If you are being prescribed something new — whether it’s a medication or a supplement — ask about possible side effects and drug interactions.
- Always confirm. After your healthcare provider has answered all your questions, ask your pharmacist the same questions. Pharmacists are trained to understand the mechanisms and interactions of medications. And don’t just give your doctor a list of every pill you take, give one to your pharmacist as well.
- Write it down. Whenever you’re warned about possible interactions or side effects, write them down. You need to remember everything about the medications you’re taking. It’s hard to remember all the warnings for any single medication; it’s virtually impossible to remember everything if you take several medications.
- Stick to the same pharmacy. If you use different pharmacies, it becomes more likely that one of the pharmacies will not have a complete list of everything you take, making a drug interaction more likely.
- Read the package insert. The package insert will warn of possible side effects and known interactions. If you don’t know what a term, like mucositis, means, be sure to ask.
As the number of medications you take go up, the possible drug complications go up, too. But you have the power to keep yourself safe.
At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, our care programs are designed specifically to meet the unique needs and interests of seniors and long-term care patients — and that includes keeping close track of the medications. We emphasize restorative care, maximizing each patient’s potential to regain and maintain function and mobility.
We foster an environment that is cheerful and enthusiastic, so residents truly relish and appreciate life.
Our outstanding Social Services team works hard to ensure that every resident thrives socially, emotionally, and spiritually.
We promote a culture of independence, crucial for emotional, social, and physical health. Residents are encouraged to choose their activity and meal preferences, and to perform tasks and activities as self-sufficiently as possible.
We carefully select, train and re-train our wonderful caregivers, who are especially sensitive to the needs of our long-term care patients. They treat residents with love, compassion, and dignity.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.