Every year, thousands of seniors are treated in emergency rooms and/or hospitalized because they did not take the right medication at the right time. For people with chronic health conditions who are taking several medications, medication mix-ups are common and consist of:
- Overmedicating (taking too much medication)
- Under-medicating (not taking enough medication)
Both of these scenarios can be extremely dangerous. Overmedicating can lead to undesirable side effects (dizziness, balance loss, confusion, etc.), while under-medicating leads to a worsening of one’s health conditions.
Who’s at Risk?
People most likely to be affected by medication mix-ups are those who:
- Take five or more medications.
- Together take 12 or more doses per day.
- Have had recent changes to their treatment regimen that require ongoing monitoring of medication effects.
- Have language difficulties, problems with dexterity, poor eyesight or dementia.
- Live alone and/or don’t have a family caretaker.
Pill organizers are devices that remind people to take the right medication at the right time. They can help prevent medication mix-ups. According to a new report, however, pill organizers may actually be responsible for causing dangerous overdoses. Individuals who started to use a pill organizer suffered impaired mobility, episodes of dangerously low blood sugar, and falls.
Why did this happen? Up to a third of seniors who use prescription drugs fail to take them regularly. As a result, their doctors increase the dosage, mistakenly believing the drugs to be ineffective. When the senior starts using a pill organizer, they suddenly begin taking the full-prescribed amount and suffer side effects from overdosing as a result. It’s the switching, or moving from taking medications sporadically to taking all the medication with a pill organizer, which appears to be the danger.
Doctors and pharmacists should speak to their senior patients before they start to use a pill organizer to know exactly what quantity of drugs individuals are taking. This is especially important for individuals who are a fall risk. People who are already using a pill organizer without any ill effects should not stop using it. Several studies also have shown that pill organizers help avoid medication mix-ups.
Has a pill organizer helped maintain your medication regimen?
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Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D., PA-C (or Dr. Rein as he is commonly referred to) is the president of FallPrevent, LLC, Blackwood, N.J., a consulting company that provides educational, legal and marketing services related to fall prevention in the elderly. Dr. Tideiksaar is a gerontologist (healthcare professional who specializes in working with elderly patients) and a geriatric physician's assistant. Check out Dr. Rein’s professional profile on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-rein/6/759/592. If you have any questions about preventing falls, please feel free to email Dr. Rein at firstname.lastname@example.org.