Seniors are probably the last age group that comes to mind when the topic of addiction comes up. That’s one reason the statistics showing escalating drug misuse among older adults caught many health professionals off guard. Experts say as many as 15 percent of older adults are misusing a prescribed medication.
That means nearly one million seniors are putting their health at risk. Researchers believe that number will climb to 2.7 million by 2020 unless dramatic measures are taken.
Knowing how to identify when an older adult is in trouble and how to help them can be a challenge, but we hope this information can help.
What Is the Difference between Drug Misuse and Drug Abuse?
It’s important to learn how drug misuse is different from drug abuse, especially when it comes to seniors who might have chronic health conditions that require medication. While both can have deadly consequences, drug misuse is the issue on the rise among older adults.
- Drug misuse: This occurs when an older adult uses a prescribed medication inappropriately. For example, a senior with severe arthritis may live with chronic pain. When their arthritis flares, they might take more pain medication than is prescribed to try to cope. This is considered misuse because it is taken differently than prescribed, but not for recreational purposes.
- Drug abuse: By contrast, drug abuse happens when an older adult takes a prescription medication purely for recreation. They may take pain medication left over from an illness or injury. The prescription is no longer necessary from a medical perspective. Sometimes drug abuse occurs when a senior takes a medication prescribed for a spouse or other member of the household. Drug abuse is much less common among older adults.
6 Signs a Senior Might Be Misusing Medication
It can be difficult for families to recognize when a senior loved one is misusing prescription medications. Signs of drug misuse can easily be mistaken for signs of aging.
If you are worried a loved one might not be taking their medications appropriately, it can help to learn what warning signs to look for. Common signs of drug misuse in an older adult include:
- daytime fatigue or drowsiness
- seeming to be “wired” and unable to relax
- change in disposition and behavior
- quick to anger and difficulty managing anger
- problems with balance and falls
- withdrawing from family and social activities.
Next Steps If You Suspect a Senior Is Misusing Drugs
If you suspect a senior you know might be misusing a prescription medication, one easy way to check is to review their prescription bottles. Compare the date on each bottle with the number of pills that should be left. Sometimes a pill might be dropped or lost, but if the bottle is off by more than a few doses, it may signal that they are taking more than they should.
Try to talk with your loved one about your concerns. Be prepared for them to become angry when you do. If they feel medication is the only way they can live without pain, they might not see a problem.
Also, be ready for the fact that the senior might not be misusing their medication deliberately. They may be experiencing memory loss and simply forget they already took their medicine. Taking too much or too little of a medication is a common issue for adults with memory problems.
Medication Management Services at Sunrise
Medication coordination is one of the many services provided at Sunrise Senior Living communities. Because it isn’t uncommon for older adults to take five or more medications each day, staying on schedule can be difficult.
Sunrise care teams help with everything from providing medication reminders to reordering prescriptions as needed. We invite you to call the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more!
Source: Sunrise Senior Living