According to estimates within the medical community, about one half of all adults age 65 or over take five or more medications per day. Many of these people are mixing prescription drugs with either herbal supplements or over the counter drugs, which may make this number even higher. Whenever someone takes more than one medication, there is always a danger of interactions between the meds, but when someone is older, that risk can be even higher. Also, consider the fact that not everyone has all of their medications prescribed by the same doctor. Oftentimes, doctors don’t even know if their patient is taking over the counter meds or supplements. This danger can be extremely powerful in the senior population.
Another danger that is not often mentioned is that certain foods can interact with medications. Many medications work by going through your digestive system into the liver, where they are broken down by enzymes and then metabolized into the body. In other words, the medicine is activated in the liver, where it goes to the parts of the body that need it. But if there are new or harmful substances in the liver (or anywhere else where they could interfere), then this process might not work in the way that it is supposed to. What ends up happening then is that the medication that was especially prescribed to you or an elderly family member doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.
Instances where interactions from food or a supplement have deleterious effects are in the minority, thankfully. However, because they can cause severe problems and because most of the time doctors do not have all of the information that they need to make informed decisions from a single source, helping a loved one to keep track of what they are taking and what they are eating is an important part of helping them to stay healthy. Good communication with doctors and caregivers is also a must.
While having an in-home care specialist working with an older family member is an extremely helpful thing, these professionals do not tend to have a medical doctorate. They might know from experience that some medications don’t work in some instances, but this is certainly not something that you should expect even the best caregiver to know about. Instead, this is something that needs to be addressed by a trained medical professional and can’t just be considered something that will be detected in the senior care process.
It’s very important that you speak with a doctor if you have concerns about taking too many medications with your trusted physician. And if you have an elderly loved one that fits this description, be sure that their physician is aware of all of the meds that they are taking, even supplements and ones that do not require a prescription. The whole point of taking medications is to help improve health, not to cause an undue risk to someone’s health or even their life. But if your family’s doctor is not fully informed, they will not be able to use their knowledge of medicine to help you and your loved ones to the maximum extent.