Protection from Medication Misuse and Abuse

Posted In: Uncategorized by CaregiverGPS on July 31st, 2012 | No Comments

Prescription drugs have revolutionized how we treat disease, which over the last few decades have come to be seen as a panacea for maladies ranging from dry skin to hypertension. As physicians continue to see the benefit of such drugs, their pens can’t write out a prescription fast enough in hopes of relieving their patient’s symptoms. While prescription drugs have been a literal life-saver in some instances, as more patients are prescribed multiple medications, complications and misuse are more likely to happen.

Older adults are at risk to misuse prescription drugs since they often are prescribed multiple types of drugs for various issues, leading to adverse drug interactions. According to the National Council on Aging, the risk of experiencing an adverse drug event is 13% for those taking two or more medications and jumps to 82% for those taking seven or more. It is reported that 18-41% of older adults have been affected by medication misuse and taking drugs that effect the central nervous system, such as anti-depressants and  pain relievers, are most likely to be abused and misused. Though older adults are at an increased risk of abusing prescription meds, oftentimes complications arise because of misuse by the patient or prescribing physician.

Patients can misuse prescription meds by taking a higher-dose level than prescribed, use for purposes other than what was prescribed for, taking with alcohol and skipping or hoarding doses. On the other end of the spectrum, physicians can lead their patients to misuse meds by prescribing an unnecessary high dose and failing to monitor or fully explain appropriate use of the drug. The effects of prescription meds are often heightened in older adults as their livers lose the ability to metabolize so they often require a smaller dose to achieve the same desired therapeutic effect than someone younger.

As your loved one ages it is likely they will be taking more medications leading them to an increased risk for misuse. To ensure your loved one avoids an adverse drug event:

  • Help them manage their medications with Medication Management Tools that will help them understand the effects and use of their specific meds.
  • Explain to them that taking medications while alcohol is in their system can intensify and prolong the effect of the medication and eventually lead to liver damage.
  • Make sure they know how to read drug prescription labels and to always ask their pharmacist for help if needed. Consumer Reports Prescription Label Decoder offers a comparison of pharmacy prescription bottles and their ease of use.
  • Check out AARP’s Drug Interaction Checker, to understand how certain drugs interact with one another.

If you suspect your loved one may be misusing prescription meds, contact their primary care physician for screening and review of their current meds. The common signs of medication misuse and abuse can include falls, changes in speech, confusion, insomnia and drug-seeking behavior such as doctor shopping. If you find left-over medication, make sure you know proper disposal methods. Contact city or county government household trash and recycling services to find medication take-back programs in their area or talk to their pharmacist who may also know of disposal services. September 29, 2012 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, a national initiative for people to safely dispose of their unused medications.  Some medications may require the recipient to dispose of the medication by flushing it down the sink or toilet due to its toxicity. Prescription medications can greatly increase the quality of life for your loved one as long as they are used properly. Being knowledgeable about medications and the interactions that can occur can greatly lower the likelihood of abuse and misuse.

Written by,

Lauren Zenel

CARIE Intern and MPH Candidate

Drexel University, School of Public Health



“Aging & Health A to Z.” Causes & Symptoms Drug And Substance Abuse Aging & Health A To Z Health in Aging. Health In Aging, 01 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 July 2012. <>.

“Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know.” Information for Consumers (Drugs). U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 17 July 2012. Web. 27 July 2012. <>.

“DRUG INTERACTION CHECKER.” AARP. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2012. <>.

“Prescription Medication Misuse and Abuse.” Prescription Medication Misuse and Abuse. National Council on Aging, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 27 July 2012. <>.


The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers

Posted In: News and Information Resources by CaregiverGPS on July 30th, 2012 | No Comments

A study done by MetLife that looks at adult children who work and care for their parents and the impact of caregiving on their earnings and lifetime wealth.

How Social Media Helps Caregivers

Posted In: Uncategorized by CaregiverGPS on July 23rd, 2012 | No Comments

Social media may conjure up images of young tech-savvy kids interacting with their peers online, but in reality older adults are using social media more than ever before. These sites can prove effective in updating friends and family about a loved one’s health status with the click of a mouse. In a Pew Internet survey, 50 million American boomers are on Facebook and the use of social networking sites by people over age 50 has jumped 88% between 2009 and 2010. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made it easier to create a profile and have become more user-friendly as the influx of baby boomers dive into the cyber pool.

Facebook is a great site to use when updating friends and family on the status of a loved one’s health condition. Instead of the old “phone tree,” creating a Facebook group allows only designated friends and family to see updates on the health status of a loved one. So if mom’s recovering from surgery, daily posts about her recovery process can be viewed by all in the group. This can free up valuable time for caregivers so that they can focus on the physical aspect of caregiving or their own personal needs.  Though the accessibility of Facebook has made it a popular information sharing tool, there are a few safety measures to ensure that private information is only seen by designated friends and family. Your Facebook profile and any groups you create should be kept “private” so that only your approved friends on Facebook can view this information. Never post any personally identifiable information such as social security numbers even if it will only be viewed by approved users since this information could still be obtained by internet hackers. With the proper security in place, Facebook is a great way to organize the care of a loved one, interact with other caregivers to relieve stress, and form support communities.

Twitter can be used to update friends and family in 140 characters or less on the status of a loved one. For instance, if dad just got out of surgery, you can send a quick “tweet” to designated followers notifying them of his status. Think of Twitter as a mass text message without having to type in the names and numbers of the people you want the message sent to. “Tweets” can be kept private as a direct message to a select few so that everyone who follows you on Twitter can’t see it. Other helpful social media sites include Meal Train, an interactive, online meal calendar where you can coordinate meal delivery amongst friends and family to a loved one needing meal assistance.  What Friends Do helps friends and family form a “team” to respond to the care needs of a loved one by offering transportation assistance, meal preparation and other tasks.

Navigating through social media sites can seem daunting at first but most have created website designs that are user-friendly for the technology novice. As a caregiver, your time may be stretched between personal obligations and work commitments. Social media provides a way to manage your obligations in a time-efficient manner while relieving the stress that comes with being a caregiver.

Sources/More Information:

Anne-Marie Botek. (n.d). Social Media Provides Caregivers a Cyber Shoulder to Lean On . In AgingCare. Retrieved July 19, 2012, from

Cynthia Ramnarace. (January 9, 2012). How Social Media Can Help Caregivers. In AARP. Retrieved July 19, 2012, from

Written by,

Lauren Zenel
CARIE Intern and

MPH Candidate
Drexel University School of Public Health


Free Video Training Courses for Caregivers

Posted In: News and Information Resources by CaregiverGPS on July 20th, 2012 | No Comments

My Learning Center offers an array of instructional videos on topics ranging from Alzheimer’s and Dementia care to medication and pain management.

The Cost of Elder Care

Posted In: News and Information Resources by CaregiverGPS on July 13th, 2012 | No Comments

Interested in finding the average cost of various types of adult care in your state?  This tool published by NPR is a great resource.

NPR Special Series: Family Matters

Posted In: News and Information Resources by CaregiverGPS on July 13th, 2012 | No Comments

A seven-part series that follows three families and the challenges they face surrounding elder care.

To view the complete series, click here.