Is Your Elderly Parent on Too Many Medications?

As you age, one thing is for certain: you’ll be at an increased risk for a myriad of health issues and problems. Many of them stem from the natural process of aging, while others are based on genetic or environmental factors. Your doctor will likely recommend a prescription medication plan as a long-term solution.

If you have a parent who takes a lot of medications, either prescribed by one doctor or several, it can be hard to tell if they are being overmedicated. Here a few ways to help decipher the problem and what to do if you feel like your loved one is taking too many medications:

What Exactly is Integrative Medicine?

When you visit the doctor, you likely go to see him or her based on your ailment or concern. Many doctors are general practitioners or practice family medicine which covers a broad range of medical problems and diseases. The issue is that they often refer individuals out to other doctors for certain specialties or concerns. This can lead to multiple prescriptions or prescribing too much of one medicine to a patient. Integrative medicine uses a more healing oriented type of approach and focuses solely on spirit, body and mind and any special characteristics of the individual. It focuses on both medicinal as well as alternative medical therapies. If your loved one is suffering from a disease and doesn’t seem to be getting any better or isn’t seeing any improvement, it may be time to seek out the services of a doctor who practices integrative medicine.

Because many elderly patients take multiple medications, some of the side effects of these meds can trigger new medical issues, causing a lot of grief and confusion. Many times patients refuse to see another doctor because they feel their concerns are dismissed, notes Dr. Maxwell on his website, Ask Dr Maxwell, who is board certified in integrative medicine, family medicine, and osteopathic medicine. A complete and thorough evaluation from an integrative medicine doctor in your area can help offer a new, fresh perspective and possibly shed some light on a new treatment plan for your loved one.

Multiple Diagnoses and Multiple Doctors

As the years go by, many people end up seeing several different doctors in different clinics or hospitals along the way. If your loved one sees a medical professional that has an interdisciplinary team of treatment specialists, he may reap the benefits of having multiple docs tied together to establish the best care plan for his ailments and needs. If not, seeing a doctor outside of the insurance plan or in a different city can trigger new prescriptions being written and a break in health care continuity.

Choosing a medical team that uses integrative medicine practices that look at the entire picture, including your past medical history, can be very beneficial. They will focus on all of your problems and place them under one umbrella for multi-faceted treatment and care options. This can range from a holistic approach to traditional medicine in order to ensure that you’re getting the best care possible for your health issue. Switching over to more holistic approaches to help treat bothersome symptoms of disease can make coping easier and in some cases, eliminate the use of several medication types.

Signs That Your Parent May Be Overmedicated

If you speak with your parent’s doctor, they are highly unlikely to tell you that they are overmedicating your loved one. This is something that needs a second opinion from a qualified medical doctor. But there are some signs that should trigger an alarm for you to warrant further checking. This includes:

  • Oversleeping or signs of lethargy
  • Not enough sleep and feelings of hyperactivity
  • Slurred speech and coordination problems
  • Forgetfulness or memory loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth and increased thirst

These are some physical signs to look for, although they could be a sign of an underlying medical problem. Request a second medical opinion if you have a serious concern for the health and well being of your parent.

How to Seek Help and Assistance

If you’ve come to the conclusion that your loved one may be overmedicated as prescribed by his doctor, the first step is to voice the concern with that doctor and try to get a resolution. If unsuccessful and you’re not satisfied with the overall result and no changes have been made, it’s time for a second opinion. This can be challenging, especially if your parent can only see a specific primary care doctor or a doctor within the same medical practice. Contacting a patient advocate through the insurance company or changing the primary care doctor are just two ways that you can seek out another medical opinion.

Your parent’s health is likely your main concern. Know that there are medicinal alternatives and further help for both of you so that you can find a treatment plan that is beneficial moving forward.