Dr Paula RochonDr Paula Rochon, Geriatrician,Vice-President Research–Women’s College Research Institute; Adjunct Scientist Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit

I heard Dr Paula Rochon speak to a small but extremely attentive group of senior seniors. The topic: Medications and the elderly. Rochon is a Geriatrician by training, and her research focus and passion is medication. My take-away:

don’t underestimate the impact of medications – the time and effort and challenges required to take ‘em, and the potential effect on other functions.

I spoke with Dr. Rochon afterwards, and she clued me in to specific issues related to medications and aging, and a message to pass along to fellow females:

Women have to be particularly diligent because so much medication research is done with men.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Even if your parent’s been taking the same medication(s) forever, it’s still a good idea to get them reviewed every 4 -6 months. Why? Because aging bodies may not need as much of any one medication. Ask if all medications are necessary, or if any medications can be eliminated
  2. If new medication is prescribed, find out what it’s for, if it’s replacing something else, and how it’ll interact with other medications food and drink.
  3. Much as weight plays a huge role in how much medication infants are given, as an aging body shrinks, they may not need as much medication. Know your parents weight and height
  4. Many medications, or combination of medications can cause confusion, which can lead to a mess o problems: confusion, losing balance and falling, misplacing glasses, dentures, and often –are you ready for this: misdiagnosis of dementia or early Alzheimers.
  5. Many pills are hard to swallow, and having to swallow a lot of pills can be a real trial – especially if your parent’s already having trouble swallowing. But: before crushing, dissolving or splitting, make sure it won’t affect the medications’ being effective
  6. Since medication is processed by our kidneys, how well they’re functioning affects how much medication is prescribed. If your parent doesn’t know his/her kidney functions, ask their doctor to get a blood test requisitioned.
  7. If your parent’s hospitalized, be aware that patients are often automatically prescribed sleeping pills, which can cause confusion.

An AHA moment: sleeping pills can be refused!

Suggested reading: Medical Decisions

Vial of Life