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While grandma and grandpa may not be the first people that come to mind when thinking of prescription drug abuse, the combination of several factors have led to what organizations like US News & World Report have called a “silent epidemic.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), certain population groups are more vulnerable to drug abuse and misuse. With slower rates of metabolism, elevated levels of pain and increased sensitivity to medication, prescription drug abuse has been increasing among adults 50 and over.
At Amada Senior Care in Colorado Springs, owner Ken Jenson says prescription drug abuse is rampant among seniors.
“I don’t believe seniors go out to be addicted,” Jenson says. “But many times it happens because prescriptions are often free for them. If someone goes in for a torn muscle, they might need 5 to 10 pain pills, but doctors may give them 60 or 90 so they don’t have to go in for a refill. If you give anyone that many, there’s a good chance they’re going to get addicted.”
Whether it’s accidental or something else, it’s important to be on the lookout to make sure your loved one isn’t abusing their medications.
Keep medications organized. Is your loved one keeping track of their pills properly? Check in with mom or dad and see how they’re storing their medications. Note any red flags like pills strewn all over (oftentimes, when a senior drops a pill accidentally, they’re unable to bend down and pick it up), various pills all mixed up in one bottle, or addictive pain pills not safely stored (opiates can often be stolen by others in the house, like grandchildren).
Help prevent any medicine trouble by going the extra step. Make prescriptions easily accessible by carefully filling pill boxes. This can cut down on mishaps like mom and dad mixing up their pills. If you’re out of town and can’t do it yourself, ask a pharmacy for help; some are able to dispense prescriptions right into organized pill boxes.
Enlist home care specialists as well – just remember that caregivers aren’t legally able to dispense medication. They can help with pill management, though, like reminding seniors to take meds out of a pill box.
Be as proactive as possible. If your loved one is taking more medications than they can remember, consult with their doctor and dig deep into whether each pill is absolutely necessary.
Find out what each is for, and make sure mom or dad understand the pros and cons of taking them. Cut down on pills where you can, and be sure to monitor any pain prescriptions mom or dad might get after a surgery (an estimated 26 million to 36 million people in the world abuse opiates, according to the National Institute on Drugs).
Looking for extra help caring for your loved one? Consult an expert home service provider like Amada Senior Care in Colorado Springs. For more about hiring one of Amada’s staff of 250 (and counting!) caregivers, visit AmadaColoradoSprings.com or call (719) 377-9121.
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