Monday, June 30, 2014

Eldercare Tip: When It Comes to Your Parent's Meds, Less is Best

Just say ''No.'' Nancy Reagan's slogan for her anti-drug campaign rings true today.  Especially for your aging parent.  The wrong drugs, the wrong dosage, the wrong combination of drugs can do a number on your parent's health.

"The general rule of thumb is 'Less is Best,'" says Grace Gana, Clinical/Geriatric Pharmacist with Elim Pharmaceutical Consultants, LLC. Grace visited our team meeting at Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals last month.  Medications that purport to heal can do more harm than good, she told us.

Inappropriate Drugs for the Elderly--Drugs affecting the central nervous system, either directly or indirectly, have potentially serious adverse effects on the elderly.  The biggest offenders are

  • Sedatives/Hypnotics (eg. Ambian, Sonata) 
  • Antipsychotics (eg. Seroquel)
  • Benzodiazepines (eg. Xanax, Ativan)
  • Antihistamines (eg. Hydroxyzine) 
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (eg. Amitriptyline)
These drugs are associated with falls/fractures, dementia/cognitive impairment, delirium, insomnia, kidney disease, GI bleeding, chronic constipation, etc.  

Drugs that especially need monitoring--Perhaps your parent is taking a psychoactive drug, one which chemically alters brain function, causing changes in behavior, mood and consciousness.  These include antidepressants, antipsychotics, drugs used for ADHD and for dementia.  Those should be routinely monitored for safety and effectiveness, and adjusted/discontinued as necessary, says Gana.

Count your parent's medications--The more medications, the greater the possibility of negatively reacting with each other.  Consider the possibility of asking your parent's doctor to discontinue any medications that are not necessary.

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