As we become older, we are more likely to live with at least one health problem. In fact, nearly three out of four people aged 65 and older have multiple chronic health conditions, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Many of these health issues — for example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis — often require medication to stay healthy or prevent other problems. But taking medication — and certainly multiple medications at the same time — can be challenging. In addition, our bodies change as we age. These changes can alter the way medications work in the body. Many older Americans also face declining eyesight, grip strength, mobility and memory lapses — all of which can affect safe medication use and adherence (taking medication(s) as prescribed by a healthcare professional).
Medication problems and errors are common among older adults.
- Studies find that up to 40 percent of older patients in the community or in nursing homes use at least one inappropriately prescribed medication.
- Older adults are more susceptible to medication-related problems, including a higher risk of dangerous interactions and adverse drug reactions such as confusion, falls, constipation and hip fractures; and many of these problems may be preventable.
- One third of hospitalizations among older people are related to drug-related problems or toxic side effects.
- The number of hospital admissions among Americans ages 45 and older for medication and drug-related conditions doubled between 1997 and 2008, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
- A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that adults ages 50 and older comprised 51.5 percent of all emergency department visits in 2008 that were due to adverse drug reactions to medications. That's about 1.1 million visits. Of these visits, nearly two out of three (61 percent) were made by people aged 65 or older.
Older adults and their caregivers must learn about safe and appropriate medication use and how to get the most from their medications. This online resource is designed to help. Included are articles, tip sheets and other resources:
- Juggling Multiple Medications? What You Can Do to Stay Safe.
- Talking About Cost: Don't Let Medication Expenses Cut into Your Treatment.
- 6 Ways to Help Your Older Parents Use Medications the Right Way and Prevent Problems.
- Are You in Pain? Older Adults Use Pain Relievers More than Any Other Age Group.
- MUST Remember — 10 Tips to Help Remind You to Stay on Schedule.
- MUST Ask Questions: What You Need to Know
- 10 Terms You MUST Know