A growing concern for family caregivers is the possibility of a loved one’s accidental overdose. This is an issue I hear about with alarming frequency as we travel the country on our Fearless Caregiver Conference tour. If nothing else, the statistics bear out the potential for danger to our loved ones.
Older women consume 60 percent of all prescription and over-the-counter medications. The number of prescriptions written for older adults averages 18.5 per person per year, and 83 percent of people over 65 are taking prescription medications. With this many medications to take on a regular basis, an accidental overdose could be a problem for anyone; but for many of our loved ones, the risks are increased by memory loss, hearing difficulties and low vision.
It is vitally important that, as caregivers, we pay attention to the potential for an accidental overdose by a loved one.
Some things we can do:
- Pay attention to any changes in their speech patterns, mental acuity, physical strength or level of depression or confusion.
- Regularly check the medicine cabinet and refrigerator for medication usage patterns, expiration dates, and to ensure timely refills.
- Scoop all of the prescription bottles into a paper bag and carry them to their pharmacist to ensure that all medications work well together. If you take all prescriptions to one pharmacist, they can more easily cross-reference drugs to look for any potential adverse side effects. Actually, it is best to use the same pharmacy for all prescriptions. One of the most important partnerships we can have with a care professional is often overlooked – the pharmacist.
- Many of our loved ones are receiving medications from multiple doctors. Make a list of all the prescriptions and any over-the-counter medications they are taking and send it to your loved one’s primary care physician for review.
When discussing these concerns with your loved ones, remember that your most effective weapons against an accidental overdose are respect and understanding. Successful medication management works best when you are working as a team.