Aging and Medication

83% of seniors take one prescription medication. And 50% of seniors take three or more prescription medications.Medication safety, caring for aging parents, eldercare

Changes related to medication and age:

There is an increase in percentage of body weight that is fat. Seniors appear to be thinner. But they retain more body fat and have less lean muscle mass than they did when they were younger. This affects medications that are stored in the body's fat. Seniors will retain these medications longer and thus prolong the actions of the drug.

There is a decrease in the percentage of body weight made up of water. With a decreased percentage of water, some medications become more concentrated.

Both liver and kidney function declines with age. The liver's function is to breakdown (metabolize) the medication. And the kidney's function is to eliminate excess medication from your body. When their function decreases, they work less efficiently to eliminate the medication from the body. This allows some medications to build to toxic levels.

What to do with a new prescription

If you receive a new prescription for a medication make sure to ask questions of both your physician and your pharmacist until you know:

• What the name of the medication is
• What the medication is for and why you are taking it
• When to take the medicine.

If you still do not understand your new medication, continue to ask questions. Do NOT give up until you understand. (As a nurse I have seen numerous patients admitted to the hospital because they took their medications incorrectly. On one occasion, I know one patient died because of his lack of understanding of his new prescription). Do not be afraid to be a pest. Ask and ask again until you understand your medications (and this is true of your current medications as well. You do not have to wait for a new prescription to gain understanding of your medications.)

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