How to help your overmedicated parent


Dear wise elder,
My 75-year-old mom is currently taking 16 different prescription and over-the-counter medications, and I’m worried she’s taking too many medications. Can you suggest any resources that can help us?
Worried girl

Dear worried,
Sadly, millions of older Americans take far too many medications today, increasing their risk for dangerous side effects and drug interactions.

According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, people aged 65 to 69 take an average of 15 prescriptions per year, and those aged 80 to 84, 18 prescriptions per year. And that’s in addition to the myriad of over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, vitamins, and minerals they can take, each of which – either alone or in combination – could cause more problems than it needs to. cured of it.

Even when older patients are only taking necessary and effective medications, dosages should be reviewed. As patients age, they tend to metabolize drugs more slowly, which means the dose that was perfect five years ago may now be too high, possibly causing dizziness and falls. Doses must be continuously adjusted with age, and most of the time this does not happen.

Get a medication review
If you have any concerns or questions about the medications your mom is taking, collect all of her pill bottles, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements, bag them, and bring them with you. them to his primary care center. doctor or pharmacist for a full review of the drug.

Medicare offers free drug reviews with a doctor during annual “wellness visits,” and many Medicare Part D prescription drug beneficiaries may also get free drug reviews from pharmacists.

When reviewing the medications, take a look at each medication and find out if there are any duplicate medications or dangerous combinations your mother is taking, and if there are any medications that she could stop taking or reduce the dose. Then, make a master medication list and keep it up to date so that it can be easily shared whenever your mom sees a doctor.

To help you, AARP offers a free “my personal medical record” form that you can download and print at Or, if your mom uses a smartphone, she can use a pill tracking app like Medisafe – Pill & Med Reminder (

Other tips
If possible, your mom should also use one pharmacy to fill all of her prescriptions. The software that pharmacies use to manage patient prescriptions is designed to cross-reference all of the medications a patient is taking to ensure there are no drug interactions that could cause harm.

Also, the next time your mother’s doctor prescribes a new medicine for you, she should educate you about non-drug treatment options that may be safer. If the medication is indeed needed, she should know how long she is supposed to take it and what side effects it may cause.

Another great resource that can help keep your mom safe is the American Geriatrics Society, which has identified 10 different types of medications that people 65 and over should almost always avoid due to the risk of serious side effects. . They include the anxiolytics diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), and sleeping pills such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta). To see the full list, visit and search for “10 Medicines Seniors Should Avoid”.

Send your questions to seniors to: Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of the book “The Savvy Senior”.


About Hector Hedgepeth

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