Identifying and Addressing Senior Medication Misuse

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Identifying and Addressing Senior Medication Misuse

addressing senior medication misuse

As recent research shows, addiction and drug misuses are significant issues that are on the rise for seniors and elderly people. As many as 15 percent of all older adults are misusing some prescribed medication, and nearly 3 million seniors could fit this description by 2020.

At Cozy Retire, our assisted living services include staff members who are well-trained on properly providing prescription medications. This also includes watching for the signs of potential misuse or abuse, which all caregivers of senior loved ones should be paying attention to. Here are some basic definitions and signs to be aware of, plus steps to take if you’re worried your loved one is misusing their medication.

Drug Misuse Vs Drug Abuse

There’s a stark difference between misusing and abusing prescription drugs:

  • Drug misuse: Misuse is when a prescription is being used in the wrong ways. One of the most common forms of drug misuse is over- or under-dosing based on the severity of symptoms – anything that’s outside the prescription method might qualify, as long as it’s not being used recreationally.
  • Drug abuse: In comparison, drug abuse is when a drug is being taken for recreational purposes only. This is often leftover medication, but it’s no longer necessary in any medical way. Of these two, drug abuse is far less common among seniors than drug misuse.

Signs of Drug Misuse

In many cases, due to respecting privacy and confusing the signs with those related to simple aging, it can be tough for caregivers and family members to recognize if a senior loved one is misusing medication. Here are a few signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Fatigue or drowsiness during the day
  • Inability to relax, even during the evenings
  • Quick trigger for anger, plus trouble managing anger
  • Change in behavior or disposition
  • Problems with balance or falls that were not present previously
  • Withdrawing from various social or family activities, often with a suspicious air of privacy

Steps to Take

If you are worried that a senior loved one you care for is misusing their medication, the first step you should take is to discreetly check their prescription bottles. Check the dates on the bottles and determine how much medication should be left, then compare this to how much is actually left. Be aware that a couple pills here or there could be misplaced, but if the bottle is off by more than this, you have your answer.

If this is the case, be sure to approach the issue with respect and understanding. Speak to your loved one about your concerns gently, and prepare for some resistance in some cases – in many situations, the way they take their medication is the only way they can feel comfortable every day. In other cases, know that your loved one may not even realize they’re misusing their medication, and may be doing so mistakenly due to memory loss or confusion.

For more on how to help avoid seniors misusing or abusing prescription medications, or for information on any of our senior living facilities, speak to the staff at Cozy Retire today.