This week, Su and Jonathan discuss away of ensuring the safety of meds for seniors
Su Robotti: Hello, I’m Sue Robotti, the founder of MedShadow, and I’m here today with our content manager, Jonathan Block, and today we’re going to talk about what I consider to be a very important topic and that is how medicines affect seniors differently than adults or children.
The aging process means that drugs are metabolized differently in senior’s bodies, and we have some guidelines that will help you keep your senior safe. The criteria that you use for defining if a medicine is safe or not safe for a senior is called…
Jonathan Block: …The Beers Criteria which has been developed by the American Geriatrics Society.
SR: This is all started when a friend of mine complained that her mother, who is 90 years old, and had been healthy, living on her own, was suddenly uncertain, a little confused, was unsteady on her feet, and very unhappy and depressed — very unlike herself. So I went online like everybody does, and I looked around and I found the Beers Criteria, which has been established for many years, and it’s considered quite the standard in medical communities and it listed specifically the drug that she had just started taking, Ativan, which is an anti-anxiety drug, and it gave all of the side effects that she was feeling and the not typical side effects unless you are a senior, so you need the seniors for anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan would be depression, confusion, loss of balance, so this is why at so important to understand these things.
[A free pdf of the Beers Criteria is available here.]
What are some other drugs that we found out from Beers Criteria are perfectly safe for you and me or at less typically safe for you and me, but maybe not for the next generation.
JB: Sure, a lot of them are very common drugs. The first one that comes to mind are NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, these are drugs that you would take for pain or fever examples to include ibuprofen and naproxen which you may have heard of brand names, for ibuprofen, Motrin or Advil, and for naproxen, would be Aleve. So that’s a major class of drugs that many seniors take. An alternative if your senior is taking an NSAID would be Tylenol.
Another one is antihistamines. A common antihistamine would be Benadryl, and part of the reason why that is on the list is that drugs that are antihistamines like Benadryl can lead to confusion, blurred vision, constipation and some other ailments.
Another one is sleeping aids — these include things such as Tylenol PM, Unisom. These are bought over-the-counter medications that contain an ingredient that is supposed to induce sleep but a lot of times seniors will take this and they’ll end up sleeping a lot more than expected.
Another one is what Su brought up before, drugs such as Ativan, which come under benzodiazepines.
SR: Other common names for benzodiazepines are Xanax and Valium.
JB: And the reason why those should be avoided in seniors is that they increase the risk for falls and mental decline, and then the final, one of the other major categories, the lesson that we will talk about are opioids as they have been linked with increase events of falls or fractures.
SR: Yeah, we’re not big fans of opioids but any age category if they can be avoided because they have so many side effects, but a very typical side effect in addition to falling for seniors is constipation which becomes a very, very significant problem for seniors, much more quickly than for middle aged or younger people.
So watch carefully when you are a senior or if you are a senior, when you go to the doctor, ask your doctor if this has been approved through the Beer’s Criteria, Beers sounds like it’s a good time, it’s spelled like a can of beer, B-E-E-R-S, and if you Google it you can find it on the website. You can also find a lot of information on Beers Criteria and links to it on our website, medshadow.org. So please come back and watch other MedShadow TVs and watch the medicines that you take.
Deirdre Wyeth is the Digital Director of MedShadow.org. She has worked as a digital content strategist for almost 20 years. She specializes in web content, usability and SEO. You can learn more here.