When you envision a family member that’s misusing, or even abusing, prescription pills, you probably don’t picture your elderly mother or grandmother. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA; www.drugabuse.gov), although persons aged 65-and-above only make up less than 20% of the U.S. population, they account for over one-third of the total prescriptions dispensed each year. As a result, there’s a lot of potential for prescription misuse or abuse.
And unfortunately, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) has found that prescription drug abuse impacts roughly 17% of that older, at-risk population. If you are currently caring for an aging in place family member, and you suspect that they are misusing or even abusing their meds, what should you do?
Drug Misuse vs. Abuse
Older individuals oftentimes get confused about, or don’t remember taking, their medications- notably when have memory loss. In addition, many seniors are at risk for accidental prescription drug misuse due to:
- Experiencing constant pain, and being prescribed stronger painkillers
- Poor eyesight making it difficult to read medication labels
- Receiving several different prescriptions for multiple medical conditions from various doctors
And then there are seniors who choose to abuse prescription medications, mainly opioids, stimulants, and antidepressants, for reasons like:
- Feeling hopeless, depressed, or anxious
- Experiencing severe pain
- Frustration over losing their independence
- Financial hardship
- Being diagnosed with an end-of-life condition
If your loved one is accidentally misusing their meds, the first step is to discuss your concerns with them, and how you can help. If they act defensive, defiant, or in denial (3 Ds) about what you’ve observed, they may be intentionally abusing their meds.
Signs of Prescription Misuse or Abuse
Indications of prescription drug abuse and misuse are harder to spot in the elderly than in younger persons. Many seniors are also sensitive about the topic because of pride and secrecy. According to the Mayo Clinic, seniors who are misusing prescription drugs, intentionally or not, usually present with these physical signs:
- Slurred speech
Unfortunately, these signs can mimic those of certain mental conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, so a doctor’s diagnosis is important when you have doubts. In addition to the physical signs of drug misuse, seniors that are abusing meds tend to show these behaviors:
- Drastic mood swings
- “Losing” prescriptions routinely, or seeing multiple doctors for the same problem (i.e. pain management)
- Forging prescriptions
- Acting unusually agitated, angry or tired
- Consistently making poor decisions
- Losing consciousness, or even overdosing
On the positive side, once you suspect that your loved one is purposely abusing their prescription pills, or that they possibly have an addiction, there are effective treatment programs available in your community.
Treatments for Seniors That Abuse Prescription Meds
As was pointed out, there’s a fine line between prescription drug misuse and abuse within the elderly population. If they’re aging in place, either can jeopardize their health, wellbeing, and independence. If you suspect misuse, develop a game plan to more closely monitor and manage their meds. When serving as their caregiver, that’s more easy to do. Sit down with mom or dad and explain the importance of taking each medication as prescribed, and establish an effective medication organizing and storage system.
If you suspect full-blown drug abuse, schedule a meeting with their primary doctor and your loved one. Talk to your siblings and other family members about the problem, and schedule a family meeting with the senior to air your concerns, tell them how much they’re loved, and how to get them some help. Once they’ve agreed to do so, here are some viable treatment options available in your community:
- In-patient hospital detoxification in more serious cases
- In-patient or out-patient addiction counseling
- Prescription medications for withdrawal
Medicare may help pay for many of these services if they are through a Medicare-approved provider, your loved one’s doctor documents that the services are medically necessary, and/or their doctor sets up the plan of care.
Effective Medication Management for At-Home Seniors
Prescription drug misuse and abuse is a real problem for many at-home seniors. When you are serving as a family member’s caregiver, there will be times when helping them manage their various medications can get overwhelming. When you need a break or live too far away, contact the family-trusted caregivers at First In Care. One of the reliable in-home services we provide is effective medication management, to help ensure that prescription drug misuse and abuse won’t impact your loved one.
Our highly trained aides understand the importance of assisting independent seniors take their daily medications, while putting your mind at-ease. First In Care also offers affordable in-home services like light housework, personal hygiene, meal preparation, transportation and companionship- all delivered when and where you need us. For more information about prescription drug misuse and abuse, or to learn why more families are placing the trust of their Bradenton and Manatee County, FL, senior loved ones in our home healthcare services, visit: www.firstincare.com now!