Call Now to Speak with a Care Manager Speak with a Care Manager Now: 405-285-4191

Potential Risks of Commonly Prescribed Senior Medications

By Greg Bridges, RN, MA, 9:00 am on

Because seniors are at a greater risk of age-related health concerns, it’s not uncommon for elderly to take multiple medications. However, this age group is also more sensitive to a wide array of side effects. If you provide home care for an aging parent, Home Care Assistance of Oklahoma recommends familiarizing yourself with commonly prescribed medications and the possible risks of each.

1. Anti-Anxiety Medication
Many seniors experience a great deal of anxiety and stress, which may be brought on by any number of situations such as the loss of a spouse, financial difficulties, or moving into a family member’s home. Commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications like Xanax (alprazolam), Limbitrol or Librium (chlordiazepoxide), and Valium (diazepam) can carry unique risks for seniors. All of these can cause extreme confusion and dizziness, significantly increase the risk of falls and broken bones, and can cause dependence.

2. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are commonly prescribed to control inflammation and pain. While effective, these medications are not without risks. NSAIDs can put seniors more at risk of ulcers and bleeding in the stomach. NSAIDs are also dangerous for seniors with a history of hypertension, heart failure, and kidney failure, and can increase blood pressure.

3. Diuretics
Diuretics are often prescribed to treat heart failure and control blood pressure. The most commonly prescribed diuretic among seniors is Aldactone (spironolactone), which works by blocking a hormone that causes a build-up of salt and fluid. When this diuretic is taken along with the common antibiotic Septra (or Bactrim), it can cause a potentially dangerous increase in blood potassium levels. Taken on their own, diuretics can also cause a loss of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which can cause irritability, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, temporary muscle weakness, and falls. The elderly in particular may develop an increase in uric acid, which can lead to gout.

4. Opioid Pain Relievers
Narcotic painkillers are often prescribed to seniors with chronic health conditions, particularly arthritis. These pain relievers do not decrease inflammation like NSAIDs but instead work on pain receptors on nerve cells to reduce pain. Some of the most widely prescribed narcotics for seniors include Talwin (pentazocine), Demerol (meperidine), Codeine (3-methylmorphine), and Oxycodone. Perhaps the greatest risk of opioid pain relievers is addiction. However, other potential risks include nausea, constipation, urinary retention, drowsiness, dry mouth and respiratory depression. Opioids also interact with alcohol, certain antidepressants, sleeping pills, and antihistamines.

Never hesitate to call your loved one’s physician if you have questions about his or her medication. If you’re concerned about your loved one taking medications as prescribed or worried about potential side effects, learn home care in Oklahoma. An hourly or live-in caregiver can offer medication reminders, pick up prescriptions, provide safety monitoring, and more. These services are also available as part of our comprehensive post-stroke care plans that help seniors safely recover at home. For more information, call 405-285-4191 and schedule a complimentary in-home consultation.