Submitted by Ryan Wille, B.S.
Community Health Educator
PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS & OLDER ADULTS
Many older adults live with one or more chronic conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. Older adults are more likely to consult multiple healthcare providers and take multiple medicines, which can place them at greater risk for drug interactions.
A drug interaction is when a substance (such as another medication, supplement or even food) affects the activity of a drug. This can increase or decrease the effects of the drug or produce a new effect that neither substance produces on its own.
It is important to realize that some medicines won’t mix well with alcohol or other medications, including over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies. Changes in body weight can also influence the amount of medicine you need to take and how long it stays in your body. Body circulation may slow down, which can affect how quickly drugs get to the liver and kidneys. In addition, the liver and kidneys may work slower, which can affect how a drug breaks down and is eliminated from the body. Due to these changes, medicine may remain in your body longer and create a greater chance of interaction.
The Food and Drug Administration encourages individuals to be knowledgeable about their medication, and has provided the following guidelines to guard against potential problems with medication:
- Read the labels of your medications carefully, and follow the directions.
- Look for pictures or statements on your prescriptions and pill bottles that tell you not to drink alcohol while taking the particular medication. If you are taking medications for sleeping, pain, anxiety, or depression, it is unsafe to drink alcohol.
- Talk to your health care professional about all medicines you take including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, dietary supplements, vitamins, and herbals.
- Tell your doctor about any food or medicine allergies you have.
- Keep track of side effects, and let your doctor know immediately about any unexpected symptoms or changes in the way you feel.
- Go through your medicine cabinet at least once a year to get rid of old or expired medicines.
- Have all of your medicine reviewed by your doctor at least once a year.
- Talk with your doctor or other health care professional. They can check for any problems you may be having and discuss treatment options with you.
- Ask for advice from a staff member at a senior center or other program in which you participate.
- Share your concerns with a friend, family member, or spiritual advisor.
- Remind your doctor or pharmacist about any previous conditions that might affect your ability to take certain medicines, such as allergies, a stroke, hypertension, serious heart disease, liver problems, or lung disease.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you want more information.
For more information on medication safety, contact your health care provider or pharmacist, or call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at www.nlh.org, or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison Street Ext. in Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.