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Top Tips to Help Aging & Ailing Family Members- May 2013
May 14, 2013

Medication Complications?

This winter when taking some cold medication, I was waking up in the middle of night feeling quite agitated and anxious and my dreams were wild and disturbing. After two nights of enduring these strange symptoms, I decided that perhaps the cold medication was causing a problem. When I switched medication my problem went away.

In speaking with a colleague, I found that I’m not the only person who experiences these types of side effects. We often see over-the-counter medications as benign. The truth is that the use of any medication (prescribed and OTC) or supplement may have unintended consequences. The risks and unexpected effects increase as we age. Aging bodies react differently to medications and supplements so something that may have worked in past may have a different impact when an individual is older.

Here are some suggestions on how to protect yourself and the person you are caring for against drug interactions:

Maintain a complete and up-to-date list of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and health supplements that you and your family member take. Take the list to the doctor’s office for appointments and to the pharmacy. A friend and colleague suggested taking any vitamins or supplements to doctor appointments and hospitalizations because the list of active ingredients can be lengthy. Make sure your advocate has a copy of the list or knows how to retrieve it.

Consider any changes in your family member’s mood, behavior or condition to be a drug interaction if they have recently added any new prescription, OTC medication or supplement to their routine and bring it to their doctor’s attention ASAP.

Always ask your doctor and pharmacist about common side effects for new prescriptions and read the pamphlet that comes with the drug. Be sure to ask how long a prescription will be taken.

If your family member has been hospitalized, ask for a consultation before they are discharged to understand what prescriptions they should take when returning home.

Doctors use a reference tool called the Beers list that lists drugs that should be prescribed to people over 65 with caution. While the list is geared to medical professionals, consider comparing the medications on the Beers list to your family member’s medications and then having a conversation with your family member’s doctor about any matches. Here’s a link to the Beers List

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