Anyone who has taken prescription drugs understands that they normally come with a comprehensive listing of possible adverse reactions and prescription side effects. Although prescriptions are, of course, intended to help us, the harm that can result from these adverse reactions may outweigh the benefit we obtain.
For older adults, the vast majority of whom take a number of medications, the likelihood of encountering an adverse reaction is enhanced. Nevertheless, surprisingly, more than 50% of all older adults in a recently available research study experienced adverse side effects from a medication without ever reporting them to their medical practitioners. Even more surprising: when these issues were reported, physicians failed to always make note of them in the older adults’ medical records.
Older adults offered two reasons for not sharing their medication issues:
- They thought symptoms were just a part of growing older
- They didn’t want to inconvenience their physicians
In another research study, adults age 70 and older were provided with a list of dozens of signs and symptoms and asked if they had experienced any of them in the previous 6 months, along with whether they considered if the symptoms could be associated with their medication, if the symptoms had bothered them, if they had mentioned the signs or symptoms to their doctors, and if they had needed to be hospitalized as a result of the symptoms.
A staggering 78% of those who participated in the study reported symptoms that were medically determined to be side effects to a prescription drug. And only 39% of those older adults had mentioned their concerns to their doctor, with as few as 10% of the reported symptoms being documented in the seniors’ medical records.
The most prevalent adverse prescription side effects were reported by seniors taking these particular medications:
- Antithrombotic agents
- Cardiovascular drugs
- Beta-blocking agents
- Calcium channel blockers
- Serum lipid-reducing agents
Side effects included bruising, bleeding, indigestion, muscle pain and weakness, dizziness/lightheadedness, coughing, and unsteadiness when standing.
Caitriona Cahir, PhD and a research fellow in the population health sciences division of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Dublin, recommends that seniors, “be provided with concise information resources that describe the purpose of their medication and help them anticipate and recognize adverse drug events and seek appropriate treatment. Adverse drug event interviews with a nurse or pharmacist could be incorporated into patient medication reviews as part of a patient’s ongoing pharmacologic care.”
Hearts at Home In-Home Care can assist as well. Our caregivers provide a watchful eye and ear for seniors, to observe any health issues or concerns and report them right away so that they can be addressed. We also provide medication reminders, to make certain meds are taken exactly when and how prescribed, eliminating missed or doubled doses that could also cause adverse reactions.