Pills spread out on a white surface.

Avoiding Overmedication and Harmful Medication Interactions 

by Gay Nell Jenkins, MiCAFE Community Partner Liaison

Many older people have a higher risk of overmedication and medication interactions which are very harmful and deadly to them. Anytime a senior takes more than one medication, the medications can interact with each other. Most seniors do not ask questions regarding new medications prescribed or a change of dosage of the current medication because they trust the doctor, or feel it is rude to question their decisions. Importantly, everyone should feel free to ask questions when a new medication is prescribed or when they feel uncertain about the doctor’s decisions. Questions may even alert the physician to look for possible medication interaction between the medications prescribed.

Now, seniors are being educated on the questions to ask their physicians, but we should all ask the follow questions when a dose of a medication is increased, decreased, or if a new medication is prescribed. Questions that should be asked include:

  • When and how a person should take the medication?
  • What should a person do if they miss a dose?
  • Could the medication interact with other medications?
  • What are the side effects of the medication?
  • Is a generic or lower cost medication is available?
  • Is this medication really necessary?

Physician offices should review the medications with the patient and patients should keep a list of their medications and share the list with the physician’s office. Additionally, patients should ask a physician or a pharmacist before taking over the counter medications. Pharmacies will also work to identify potential medication interactions when filling prescriptions. Nurses and other healthcare professionals, as well as the media, are striving to further educate older adults on medication interactions and side effects. When seniors are educated on the different medications that they take and why, then overmedication and harmful medications interactions are less likely to occur.

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