For all caregivers regarding prescription drugs

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Hello all, I don’t know about you, but when I first brought up the possibility that my FIL’s (age 89) prescriptions might be causing too many side effects (dementia, falls, insomnia, incontinence, weakness), the doctor poo-pood my worries and told me to stop looking at the internet. It took five different conversations and office visits to get the doctor to prescribe a much lower dosage of two of his medications. Quality of life and how effective they really are we’re what finally turned the tide. This article backs up my experience. We, as caregivers, often have to be sole advocate for this we care for. People of my in-laws generation do NOT question what their doctor orders. What I will say is that after getting Dad’s medications revamped, that he is certainly much more alert and suffers far fewer side effects than before.


Here's the article: The Washington Post "The other big drug problem: Older people taking too many pills"


7 Comments

Dear CeeCee,

I couldn't agree with you more. I am so happy to hear that your father in law is doing a lot after his meds were adjusted. This is a serious concern that requires so many caregivers to be firm in advocating for their beloved family members. I strongly believe as you do that doctors underestimate the side effects of meds on the elderly.

I too went through this with my father. It was an uphill battle. I know finding the right balance can be frustrating but it is worth it to help the elderly live better.

After my dad's stroke he went from taking nothing to 10 pills and after three months he almost starved to death. I feel guilty for not questioning the meds sooner. Or finding another doctor. But it does feel like the whole healthcare community is on a one track mind when it comes to meds.

I'm not a doctor (just a nurse) but I've always believed that the patient's family know the patient the best. If you see a large change in any aspect of your LO's condition (whether they started a new medication-or not), it should be reported. If it's not taken seriously at the doctor's office, become a "broken record". Ask that the doctor call you back so you can speak directly to him/her. Usually the squeaky wheel gets the oil. If the doctor still won't comply, change doctors.

However, if you take adjusting the medications into your own hands, you could be doing harm instead of good. Be sure to inform the doctor that you want to try lowering the dose.

If you really want to keep the doctor but he's not budging, look up the medications on the internet. Try to get the website of the pharmaceutical maker. It should be on the label of the med bottle. Print out the side effects portion and take it with you to their doctor visit. This shows the doc that you've researched it and you mean business. They'll usually back down.
Yes, we have to be the advocates for our helpless loved ones.

I'm not tooting my own horn but I don't know how my husband would have survived in the regional hospital in Mexico without my nursing intervention. I let them "do their thing" (which was not much) for a week but then started calling the shots when he started declining fast. I changed not only doctors but the hospital also. I believe that decision saved his life.

Informing yourself is easy these days with the wonderful vast knowledge gleaned from the internet. Go with your gut and don't stop pushing for your LO's rights.
Ceecee65, that is so true about prescription medications causing side effects.

I was experiencing that myself back when I was dealing with a serious illness. The pill prescribed for me was doing a major number on me.

It was then that I found out it all depends on the pharmacy manufacturer of said pills. Each manufacturer has their own "fillers" [which makes the pill large enough to pickup]..... their own "binders" [which holds the pills together so they don't crumble].... and their own "coating" [which makes the pills easier to swallow].

Thus, I had to try different pharmacy manufacturers to find one where I had less side affects.  There was something in the fillers and/or binders and/or coatings that I just couldn't handle.

And what I so very interesting, my Mom was using the same manufacturer for her pills, that I was using. Until my parents went to a mail order service and Mom got whatever manufacturer the mail order was using at that time. I remember pleading with my parents to have Mom get her pills from a local pharmacy where I could request that one manufacturer. Nope, the mail order was much cheaper... [sigh, I finally gave up].... ok, keep feeling lousy in order to save a few dollars !!
My step-grandma caused the car accident that ended up killing my grandfather, because she was so stoned from all the meds she was on, including prescription opioids.  (This was 15 years ago.) Not even kidding: she executed a left turn right into an oncoming semi.

Grandad was 92 (plus he lived for another 2 months in palliative care), so it didn't get investigated too deeply at all.  Step-grandma's meds got very quietly adjusted before she got out of the hospital, and she went on to live a longer, FAR more alert and awake life.
I learned about medical reactions when I was a teenager, taking a med prescribed by a doctor for my sinus condition. When I told him about some side effects I had experienced, he "pooh-poohed" my observation and dismissed it, with an inference that I was just imagining the connection. After thinking about it for awhile, I quit seeing him and looked for other solutions.

Over the years, I've become more adamant about taking as few meds as possible, especially since the Internet makes it so easy to find out which meds are involved in class action suits. And the shift to offshore, emerging market manufacture of components and end use meds discouraged me even more.

A congressional committee (the name of which I can't remember) held a hearing on this issue, providing photos of "plants" where drugs were manufactured. One of these "plants" looked like one of the abandoned factories in Highland Park, where autos used to be manufactured.

The plant was surrounded by high weeds, windows were broken - it was a mess, a disgusting mess. The thought of taking anything manufactured there was revolting.

One of the PCPs with whom we treated for awhile was adamant that my father should take an osteoporosis prevention drug, and he recommended Fosamax. My father had taken it for a year or so, just preceding the 2 years in which he fell each year, breaking one leg each year.

I had already researched it and knew about the side effects, so I explained to him that I thought the drug was too dangerous. He didn't agree, and after some discussion, he said in an exasperated tone, "Well, he HAS to take something!" I knew that we were never going to "be on the same page" as to my father's osteoporosis. This doctor was very good in many ways, but his adamant position that meds were the first go-to solution just wasn't acceptable.
SueC1957--there is no thing as "just a nurse." I have seen nurses question doctors' orders that would have seriously damaged their patient. I have seen nurses give so much to care for their patients and their families. Honestly, I'd rather have a good nurse and a shitty doctor looking after me than a good doctor and a poor nurse.
Thanks Meallen.
I've caught a couple of mistakes from docs in my 39 years too. I figure we're all in it (good patient care) together.

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