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Adults Over Age 65 And Medications


Adults over age 65 are more sensitive to drugs than the rest of the population which makes it all the more important that people age 65 and over use drugs wisely.

Why older adults are more susceptible to the effects of drugs

Older adults have more dangerous drug reactions than the average population. In part this is accounted for by the fact that according to the FDA, adults over the age of 65 buy more than 30 percent of all prescription drugs and 40 percent of all over-the-counter drugs. The average older person takes more than four prescription medications at once plus two over-the-counter drugs.

However, it is also accounted for by the fact that older adults also have a tendency to be more sensitive to drugs than the general population. This is primarily due to slower metabolism and organ functions. As many people age, muscle tissue is lost and fat tissue is gained. In addition, their digestive systems, kidney and liver functions may begin to slow. This affects drug absorption into the blood stream, how the organs process the medication, and how quickly it is eliminated from the body.

Precautions people age 65 and over should take with respect to drugs

The following should be considered when you begin taking a new prescription or over-the-counter medication.

  • Speak to your doctor about starting with the lowest possible therapeutic dosage of a drug. This can greatly help to minimize drug side effects. The dosage can always be increased when necessary. It is estimated that as many as 80% of side effects in older adults are dose related. (To learn about how to vary dosage to get to the minimal effective dosage, see Overmedication.)
  • Poor eyesight is sometimes responsible for medication mistakes. For easier reading, ask your pharmacist for large-type labels. If they are unavailable, consider keeping a magnifying glass need your prescription drugs and use it to check labels in bright light.
  • If you have arthritis or another condition that makes opening medication bottles difficult, ask your pharmacist for an oversized, easy-to-open bottle.
  • Remembering to take several medications two or three times a day, with or without food, can be difficult. Ask your doctor for the easiest dosing schedule, and develop a reminder system that works best for you. For example, some people use meals or bedtime as reminders to take their medications. You may also use charts, calendars, alarms, or other compliance aids for assistance.
  • Older adults (or anyone) with serious memory impairments will require special medication assistance from family, friends, or medical professionals. If there is no one in the home who can provide assistance, you may wish to consider adult day-care, a home health aide, or a supervised living facility.

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