By Cindy Hasz, Geriatric Care Manager
Geriatric Care Managers see many, many elders who are harmed by what we call “polypharmacy.” Seniors are particularly vulnerable. Unintentional drug overdose is the second leading cause of death among seniors according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Falls, depression and insomnia should not be overlooked,” says Dr. Barbara Krantz, medical director for the Hanley Center, a west Palm Beach based addiction treatment and recovery center. She says these often are signs that elders are not taking their medications correctly or have too many medications or the wrong combinations of medications. It is not unusual for elders to have 7 – 15 different medications prescribed by different doctors. This is a recipe for disaster.
Dr. Krantz says that senior adult admissions in centers like Hanley are up 450% since 2000. Some of the elderly are on so many different medications, along with opiod pain killers and anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, mixed with alcohol that this problem is often behind what appears as other things.
Family members and friends should pay attention to any changes in an elder’s condition and report to their primary physician. Changes in appetite, weight, balance and gait, sleep habits, appearance or sudden mental confusion, etc. are signs that something may be amiss in the medication regime or that opioids and/or alcohol are being added to the mix.
If you are concerned about changes in your loved ones medications and/or behaviors, call a Geriatric Care Manager to help.