Navigating the complexities of medication use gets trickier as we age, a key point discussed in the HealthInAging.org article, “How Medications Differently Affect Older Adults.” As you age, your body’s ability to metabolize drugs undergoes a transformation, often leading to the requirement of lower medication dosages or safer alternatives. Absorption of these drugs can also be influenced by several factors you might not have considered, like your diet or the consumption of certain beverages. Finding the right medication balance while taking into account the potential side effects and possible medication interactions, especially if you are dealing with multiple health conditions, is crucial. Knowledge and understanding of this information can empower you to have productive conversations with your healthcare provider, ensuring you’re receiving the most beneficial and least harmful medical care.
How Medications Works Differently in Older Adults
As your body ages, it undergoes various physiological and biological changes, affecting how medications work in your system.
Changes in the body
Firstly, the ageing process can decrease your body’s ability to break down or remove certain medications. As a result, medications may stay in your body longer, leading to potential side effects or a prolonged medicinal effect. Therefore, it’s crucial that older adults may need to adjust the dosage of their medications or consider safer alternatives.
Unique needs of older adults
Most older adults generally require lower medication doses than younger adults. The reason for this is to avoid any unwanted side effects from the medication. To achieve this, the healthcare provider generally starts with a low dose and then gradually increases to a target amount to derive the benefits of the drug whilst avoiding any side effects.
Research limitations on medication studies in older people
It’s important to note that much of the research on medications’ impact is done on younger people, which may not directly translate to older adults’ experiences. The ageing process means our bodies react to drugs differently than when we were younger. These limitations call for more research to understand the impact of medications on older adults better.
Adverse reaction and dosage adjustment
Older adults may experience adverse reactions to some medications. Some drugs may stay longer in the system, causing potential harm or discomfort. In such cases, a lower dose or a different medication is advised. Remember to check with your healthcare provider for the correct dosage and pH of any medication.
The Role of American Geriatrics Society (AGS)
The American Geriatrics Society has developed a unique approach to guide older adults in choosing safer medicines.
AGS Beers Criteria®
The AGS creates and updates the Beers Criteria®, a reference tool listing medications that may not be safe for older adults. This can be useful when discussing your medications with your healthcare professional.
Guidelines to choosing safer medicines
The AGSG provides guidelines for choosing safer and more appropriate medications for older adults. Keeping up to date with these guidelines can help you make more informed decisions about your medications.
Resources for medication understanding
The AGSG provides resources and advice to help older adults understand and manage their medications better. These resources are designed to assist you in staying healthy and managing your conditions with appropriate medication.
The Impact of Multiple Medical Conditions on Medication
Impact of conditions on medication effect
Multiple medical conditions can significantly affect how your body reacts to medication. Medicines meant to manage one condition can potentially aggravate another.
Risk of medications causing a worsening condition
For instance, older adults with memory problems may experience worsened symptoms due to other medication they’re taking. Always communicate to your healthcare provider any worsening symptoms following the use of any medication.
Importance of communication between healthcare providers
Keeping an open line of communication between all healthcare professionals you see is important in coordinating your care. Each healthcare professional should be aware of all your medical conditions and related medications.
Effects of Food and Beverages on Medications
How food, drinks and supplements may interfere with medication
Food, drinks, and supplements can dramatically affect how your medication functions. Some antibiotics, for instance, are not well absorbed when taken with food, drinks, or other medicines containing calcium, magnesium, or iron.
Common food and drink interactions
Certain commonplace drinks like grapefruit juice can change the way your body processes certain drugs. This can cause medications to build up in your system leading to unwanted effects.
Role of pharmacists in medications managing
A pharmacist can provide valuable insights into what types of food or drink to avoid while on medication. Remember to ask your pharmacist about these interactions when picking up your medication.
Potential for increased drug interactions in older adults
Older adults are at a higher risk for drug interactions due to the increased likelihood of being on multiple medications. These interactions can make a drug’s effect stronger or weaker or cause harmful side effects.
Impact of Over-the-counter medicines and supplements
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, vitamins, and other supplements can potentially interact with your prescription medications, leading to unanticipated effects. Hence, it’s important to provide your healthcare provider and pharmacist all information regarding medications and supplements you’re taking.
Advice on managing medication interactions
To avoid unwanted interactions, always maintain an updated list of all medications, supplements, and herbal products you use at home. Share this list with your healthcare provider and pharmacist so they can monitor and prevent medication interactions.
Influence of Lifestyle Choices and Other Factors Affecting Medication
The effects of medication in older adults are also significantly impacted by lifestyle choices and other outside factors.
How tobacco and caffeine can interfere with medication
Habits like nicotine and caffeine use can hamper the effectiveness of certain medications and even lead to adverse side effects.
The impact of diet, illness, and infections on medication effectiveness
Changes in your diet, bouts of illness, and infections can also affect how your body processes and responds to medications.
Importance of keeping healthcare providers updated on lifestyle changes
As such, it’s crucial to keep your healthcare provider updated on all significant lifestyle changes or new medical issues. This allows them to adjust your medication accordingly, ensuring each prescribed drug is as effective as possible.
Potential Side Effects in Older Adults
While necessary for managing health conditions, medications can potentially cause unwanted side effects, hampering an older adult’s daily activities.
Common side effects in older adults
Common side effects experienced by older adults include headaches, dizziness, weight changes, and cognitive difficulties such as memory loss or confusion.
How side effects can impact daily activities
Side effects can come in the way of routine tasks and activities, and severely impact your quality of life as an older adult.
Importance of communicating side effects to healthcare provider
Always report any side effects to your healthcare provider. They can help find alternatives or adjust dosages to better suit your system and minimize side effects.
Understanding Polypharmacy in Older Adults
The term “polypharmacy” refers to the usage of five or more medications. With multiple health conditions, many older adults fall into this category.
Meaning and risks of polypharmacy
Polypharmacy may elevate the chances of medication interactions and pose a risk to your health, with the potential for severe side effects and decreased benefits from the medications.
Side effects and negative impacts
The usage of multiple medicines can often lead to more pronounced side effects, and even cause confusion and memory problems.
Strategies to manage polypharmacy
Speak to your healthcare provider about any adverse effects you’re experiencing. They can adjust your medications accordingly, mitigating the negative impacts of polypharmacy.
Importance of Accurate Medication Tracking
Medication tracking is crucial for older adults, particularly those with multiple healthcare providers.
Challenges with multiple healthcare providers
The more healthcare providers you have, the more likely it is that there are gaps in communication, potentially leading to medication errors.
Potential for increased medication interactions
Without accurate tracking, the risk of medication interactions increases, possibly leading to harmful side effects.
Tips for keeping track of medications and supplements
One way to manage this is to keep a comprehensive list of all medications, including any OTC medications, vitamins, supplements, or herbal products you’re taking. Share this list with all your healthcare providers to ensure a unified approach to your medication management.
The Dangers of Prescribing Cascade
Prescribing cascade refers to the spiral where a side effect from a drug is mistaken for a new medical condition, leading to an additional prescription.
Understanding a prescribing cascade
Prescribing cascades can lead to unnecessary drug intake, risking further side effects and drug interactions.
Potential risks and consequences
This phenomenon can have severe health consequences, especially for older adults already dealing with polypharmacy.
Preventative measures against prescribing cascade
Being proactive about your prescriptions is the first step towards preventing prescribing cascades. Always discuss with your healthcare provider any potential side effects or interactions. Before adding a new medication, consider whether an existing one could be causing the issues at hand. As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, and this couldn’t be truer when it comes to managing your medication in older age.