As we get older, it's not uncommon for the number of medications we take to increase. Worsening or new medical conditions may require additional prescriptions, and before long, seniors are taking a handful of pills each morning and night.
McKnight's noted that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of older adults said they took at least one prescription in the past month, and in the last decade the number of people in the U.S. on medication rose from 44 to 48 percent. Specifically, 76 percent of seniors reported taking two or more prescriptions, and 37 percent of the total noted they took five or more.
There are certainly benefits to treating mental and physical conditions with medication, but there are also risks involved when the number of pills increase, especially for those of retirement age.
Reasons to reduce
It's always important to talk to your doctor about the different medications you are taking, and here are some the reasons why:
Medications may increase the risk of falling: As you age, your balance and coordination may be affected, and conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis can affect your strength, all of which increase your risk of falling. Some medications you've been prescribed may have listed side effects such as dizziness, vertigo or drowsiness that may add to the problem.
Potentially dangerous interactions: More than likely, doctors will check medical records before prescribing a new drug to ensure that it won't interact negatively with other medications you are taking. In some cases, one drug may negate the effects of another prescription, meaning that your high blood pressure medication may be ineffective.
Possibility of overdose: Seniors experiencing memory issues may forget they've already taken a dose of their prescriptions, which could cause them to accidently overdose. If you live in an assisted living community, staff members may offer medication monitoring to avoid this situation.
Drugs may cause insomnia: For a variety of reasons, you may find that you have more trouble sleeping in your later years. This could be because of additional aches and pains but it could also be a side effect of one or more of your medications.
"Insomnia is more common for seniors, partly because of health issues, partly because of the anxiety and the concerns of aging, and sometimes because of medication," Dr. Jack Gardner, a neurologist certified in sleep medicine at the Sleep Center at Baylor Medical Center, told WedMD.
If begin to experience sleep issues, check the labels on your medications to find out all of the possible side effects.
The good news is that there is an easy solution to the issue of taking too many medications. You can speak with your doctor about what prescriptions are absolutely necessary and which you might be able to stop.
In some cases, making lifestyle changes like eating better, losing weight and introducing a regular exercise routine will negate the need for some drugs once you experience improvements to conditions such as blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.
Additionally, if you have been experiencing insomnia, lowering the amount of pills you take could lead to a more restful night's sleep, which will provide myriad benefits for your overall well-being.
Medication reduction might improve your general routine as well. It can become cumbersome to make sure that you have taken each prescription at the right time, especially if you on vacation or at a social gathering. Decreasing the amount of medications taken can help your morning and evenings move a little more quickly, and it may lower anxiety about forgetting a dosage.