Overmedication and the Elderly

Overmedication and the Elderly

Older medical patients tend to be prescribed more medications than others, which can create a state known as overmedication. What is sad is that most of their medicines alleviate the side effects of previous medications, which may not be that troublesome. Overmedication can be extremely dangerous and can cause death, so seek help today if someone you know has this issue.

Causes of Overmedication in Elderly People

The following are a few of the causes of overmedication:

  • Mixing prescription drugs with over-the-counter drugs, under the assumption that nothing one can buy without a prescription will be harmful, no matter how it is taken
  • Not admitting discomfort or pain
  • Assuming that whatever a doctor says is the best option for the situation
  • Not knowing what a medication is supposed to treat or how long to take it
  • Having multiple doctors who all prescribe medication without consulting each other
  • Failing to inform one’s doctor of all over-the-counter medications and supplements one is taking

In addition to these accidental causes, some geriatric patients are overmedicated by callous relatives or unconcerned nursing home staff who would rather have the patient detached or unconscious than struggling with medical needs. A patient who always sleeps requires minimal attention and effort, which is a tempting solution for caregivers who are weary of hysteria, grouchiness or constant physical needs.

Dangers of Overmedication in the Elderly

Overmedication is so dangerous because the body of an elderly person has slower metabolism than it did in previous years. Fat replaces muscle, bodily fluids dry up, the liver shrinks and the kidneys begin to fail, which all inhibit metabolism. This means that drugs cannot be processed and cannot act on the body as quickly as they should. When these problems all pile up, they can cause a life-threatening overdose.

Also, overmedication can mimic the symptoms of dementia or other age-related mental disorders, causing family and physicians to consider antipsychotic medication or nursing home care when all that may be wrong with the patient is an overload of medicine.

How to Prevent Overmedication in the Elderly

To prevent overmedication of your elderly patient, take him and all of his current medications to a pharmacist or a trusted doctor who really knows him and is not just interested in prescribing pills to make more money.

Mention all current medical conditions, medicines taken in the past and their effects, your concerns and if every drug is necessary. The number of drugs your patient needs may be much smaller than the number prescribed, so double check today if you are worried.