Avoid the Opioids? How to Protect Seniors from Opioid Addiction.

Sun City home health care
Learn how to protect seniors from the hazards of opioid use.

Opioid addiction is a significant problem in America today, and it affects some of the country’s most vulnerable population – seniors. Opioids, while powerful pain relivers, pose some unique risks to older adults. The home care team at Nightingale Homecare shares the information you need to know to protect seniors from the dangerous complications of opioid addiction.

With the majority of older adults taking not just one, but multiple prescriptions, and with many seniors struggling with chronic pain from a variety of issues of aging, prescription of opioids is common. Unfortunately, with those prescriptions come some serious complications. In fact, opioid issues in seniors accounted for 17% of Arizona’s hospital admissions in 2015, according to the Arizona Department of Vital Statistics.

While use of opioids is dangerous for people of any age, there are particular risks associated with opioid use in older adults. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, older adults are “especially vulnerable to falls, fractures, and respiratory arrest when using prescription narcotics – and often they are taking other medications that magnify the risks.”

To help protect seniors from opioid complications, there are a number of initiatives underway in Arizona through the Area Agency on Aging:

  • RxMatters: Created with the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and Prevention Works AZ, this educational presentation helps seniors and their caregivers understand important facts related to opioid use, storage, and disposal.
  • Awareness Campaign: The Area Agency on Aging put together a campaign to address the issue of proper medication use, targeted to thousands of residences state-wide.
  • Substance Abuse Efforts: A collaborate effort between several Area Agencies on Aging and Region One, thanks to a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, AHCCCS, and the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, is addressing opioid addiction issues in a variety of counties throughout Arizona.

While these efforts are helpful on a broad scale, what can each of us do individually to help the seniors in our lives reduce the risk for opioid addiction? The top tactic our caregivers recommend is being an active participant in your senior loved one’s health care:

  • Keep a list of all medications being taken, both prescription and over-the-counter.
  • Ensure that medications are taken exactly as prescribed.
  • Go with the senior to doctor appointments. Talk with the doctor about any potential side effects from medications being prescribed, and if opioids are being considered, ask for the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible duration. Also inquire about any non-opioid options that may be considered as an alternative.
  • Make sure the senior doesn’t drink any alcohol while taking opioids.

It can be challenging for family members to manage all of a senior loved one’s health care needs, particularly when it comes to medication management. The home care professionals at Nightingale Homecare are always on hand to partner with families to ensure that all care needs are fully met at all times. With a full range of in-home care services varying from companionship and medication reminders to highly skilled nursing care, we’re able to protect seniors from medication mishaps and ensure they remain safe, comfortable and thriving. Contact us to learn more about our Sun City home care and all of the areas we serve by calling (602) 504-1555.