Is it the pills or something else? When it comes to the issues of aging, it can be difficult to know for sure what might be causing problems that could range from potential health issues to the inability to maintain a home.
Distinguishing between a medication side effect or reaction and an illness is a process best left to medical professionals. It’s always important to check with a doctor before drawing any conclusions or discontinuing any prescribed medications, notes medical expert Dr. Jane Potter, clinic director for the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Medications should never be discontinued without a doctor’s orders.
There are signs, though, that medications (or medication mismanagement) might be to blame for health issues.
10 Signs Medications are Causing Health Issues
1. New symptoms
Any symptom that is new, such as dizziness or nausea, could be a medication side effect or reaction. Your primary doctor should know about all medications being taken, including new ones. To that end, it’s important to always provide all your doctors a list of medications you or a loved one is currently taking, including who prescribed the medications, to avoid drugs working against each other.
2. A changing appearance
Medication problems might cause changes in skin tone and color, being sleepy, weight gain and fluid retention. Always investigate the cause of any of these changes by calling a doctor.
3. Full pill bottles
Full pill bottles may mean that medications are not being taken. If you believe someone is confused about what medications to take or forgetting to take medications, that individual could be at greater risk of problems. Some medications can cause confusion that makes a person forget to take medicines or take too many. A service or pill organizer, which sorts medications into clearly labeled dose packets, can help someone stay on track.
4. Mobility issues
Dizziness and light-headedness are common side effects of many medications including those for high blood pressure. Those side effects can make walking worse in people who already have some trouble walking because of arthritis or other issues. Safety-proof a home from falls by removing or securing loose area rugs and other tripping hazards.
5. Changes in thinking, reasoning or mental acuity
There are many potential causes of forgetfulness and confusion. One possible cause is medication problems, which include over-medication. Ask the doctor to fully assess any cognitive or mental changes. Medications could be to blame.
6. Difficulty performing activities of daily living
Any potential medication side effects could make self-care harder for an aging adult, from bathing and toileting to eating and dressing. That’s why, if left unchecked by a doctor, some side effects of medications could lead to serious problems that make it harder to live at home.
7. Trouble sleeping
Some prescription drugs, including antidepressants, could lead to insomnia and the need for sleep medications. Talk to a doctor about ways to help avoid these types of side effects.
8. Change in appetite
Some medications impact appetite, either decreasing the appetite or, as is generally the case when taking a steroid medication, increasing hunger. If an older adult is having problems with appetite, ask the doctor about scheduling a meeting with a nutritionist.
9. Difficulty maintaining a home
Let’s face it—when someone is not feeling well because of issues with medications, keeping a home clean, preparing healthy meals, paying bills and running errands can become difficult. If you or a loved one are facing these issues, consider additional help in the home. The services of a home care company such as your local Home Instead office could help you or an older adult age safely at home. Learn more about the benefits of home care.
10. Changes in overall well-being
When medications are not taken correctly, they can affect a person’s well-being. Arrange to have medications reviewed at least yearly or any time there has been a change in prescriptions.
Always consult with a doctor if you have any concerns regarding a medication regimen and management. And, don’t forget that your local pharmacist is available to answer questions and help you and your loved one understand how all medications will work together.