Anyone who has taken prescription medications is aware that they usually come with an in-depth list of possible side effects to watch for. Although prescriptions are, of course, designed to help us, the problems that can result from these negative reactions can sometimes outweigh the benefits we receive.
For seniors, nearly all of whom take a variety of medications, the likelihood of dealing with an adverse reaction is increased. Yet interestingly, over 50% of all older adults in a recently released research study encountered unfavorable side effects from a medication without ever revealing them to their health practitioners. Even more astonishing: when these issues were disclosed, physicians did not always make note of them in the older adults’ medical records.
Seniors provided two primary reasons for not sharing their medication complications:
- They assumed symptoms were just a natural part of the aging process
- They did not want to bother their doctors
In a similar research study, seniors age 70 and older were provided with a list of dozens of symptoms and asked whether they had experienced any of them in the past 6 months, as well as whether they considered if the symptoms could be associated with their medication, if the symptoms had bothered them, if they had reported the symptoms to their physicians, and if they had needed to be hospitalized because of the symptoms.
A full 78% of people who took part in the study reported symptoms that were medically identified to be side effects to a prescription drug. And only 39% of those older adults had mentioned their concerns to their doctors, with as few as 10% of the reported symptoms being contained in the seniors’ medical records.
These common medications for older adults, 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, Ph.D. 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.”
Live Free Home Health Care, the expert providers of senior care services in Concord, can help as well. Our caregivers provide an observant eye and ear for older adults, to note any health issues or concerns and report them immediately so they can be resolved. We also provide medication reminders, to ensure meds are taken exactly when and how prescribed, preventing missed or doubled doses, which can also cause detrimental reactions.