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 Sun City home health 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 Sun City home care team recommends 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 Sun City 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 how we can improve quality of life for your senior loved one by calling (602) 504-1555.
Our Surprise home care pros offer helpful tips on managing senior medications safely.
At Nightingale Homecare, the top provider of home care in Paradise Valley, we often hear from seniors and their families about the challenges they’re facing with senior medications. As people age, it’s not uncommon for their doctors to prescribe a complicated list of senior medications to manage and prevent health conditions. While these medications may be helpful, remembering which medications to take every day can be overwhelming. In addition to making medication schedules difficult to remember, polypharmacy (taking multiple medications to manage health conditions) presents the potential for drug interactions that can pose health threats to aging adults.
It’s vital for seniors and caregivers to understand their medications, what each is for, and what side effects could present. The following are important questions to ask your or your loved one’s physician, pharmacist and/or your health care team:
- What is the name, generic name, spelling and dose of the medication?
- Which medical diagnosis is the medication for?
- How often and when should I take the medication?
- What are the goals of the medication?
- Is there a non-drug treatment?
- What changes should I expect with the medication?
- How should I take the medication, what should I take it with, or avoid taking it with?
- What are the side effects of the medication?
- Do I have co-existing disorders that may contribute to side effects?
- Does the medication interact with other prescription or non-prescription medications that I take?
- Is it safe to drink alcohol with the medication?
- If I’m feeling better, should I decrease or stop the medication?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- How should the medication be stored?
- Should I refill the medication? How many times?
Safety and Medication
It will be important for seniors and their caregivers to keep a current and complete list of all medications including prescriptions, over-the-counter, vitamins and herbal supplements. It is especially important to bring this list to all of the senior’s medical appointments. As herbal medications and supplements vary widely in ingredients, bring the bottles with you to your physician or pharmacy so it can be determined if there is a risk for interaction with other medications you are taking.
Keep in mind that drug names may look or sound alike. Read each label carefully and clarify with the physician or pharmacist.
It will be important to keep a schedule and diary of when medications are taken, and list any side effects experienced, and then share that information with the physician.
Pay particular attention to these side effects, which can increase fall risk:
- Coordination loss or other balance issues
One excellent way to keep senior medications in order is to use a pill box and a timer as a reminder for the senior to take each medicine.
There’s a lot to remember and to keep organized when it comes to managing senior medications, but you don’t have to do it all alone! The home care Paradise Valley professionals at Nightingale Homecare, are on hand to help in a variety of ways. Our registered nurses can help set up a pill box and reminder system, and ensure that all medications are taken exactly as prescribed. We can also work with the senior’s medical team to get answers to any questions related to medications, to help get any concerns addressed, and even pick up prescription refills for you! Contact us at (602) 504-1555 any time to learn more about the our quality home care in Paradise Valley and the surrounding area.