Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman
3 min readMar 24, 2023

Topic: Medication Safety in the Elderly

Photo by Laurynas Mereckas on Unsplash

Overdosing on prescribed medication in the elderly has happened again resulting in loss of life. This is an avoidable occurrence. Allowing your elderly loved one to take their medications without supervision is…simply put…dangerous! Taking medications of any kind can be dangerous, especially if there is no clear understanding of purpose, side effects, and warnings(like to take with food, or on an empty stomach). If medications are managed with blood tests, this is another layer of concern, that cannot be overlooked. Weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly trips to the laboratory add to the caregiver’s activities that must be built into the care of a loved one.

The use of multiple drugs to treat diseases and other health conditions is known as polypharmacy. Imagine taking multiple kinds of medication daily, and sometimes more than once a day. It is a huge predicament in our society, and in the elder population, it is significant. Simultaneous use of multiple medications can lead to harmful drug interactions. This is a factor that is not often addressed. It’s a problem that will only get worse without properly educating caregivers to ensure safe medication use and awareness knowing the signs and symptoms, Having a working comprehension of each medication is imperative.

Many of your loved ones take multiple medications for a host of illnesses and symptoms. Confusing medications due to vision declines or cognition changes are the two main reasons to be present with your loved one at medication times. Some elderly will revert to feeling the size of pills or looking at their color and stop reading the medication labels. This is one way loved ones work hard to remain independent. This is a dangerous practice. Pharmaceutical companies change medication sizes and colors all the time, so paying attention every time new medications are picked up from the pharmacy is essential. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, 125,000 deaths occur every year because of medicines not being taken correctly.

A study published in The Journals of Gerontology concluded that the median number of prescription medications Americans age 65 and older use is four. However, an estimated 15.1 million seniors (39 percent of this age group) report taking five or more. Polypharmacy can negatively impact the elderly population.

What To Do?

· Supervision for your loved one on multiple medications

· I cannot stress the importance of paying attention to all medications, even if they are familiar and have been taken for years.

· Medication absorption and or metabolism can change as loved ones age, lose weight, and or illness progresses.

· Checking in with the health care practitioner is essential, especially when multiple medications are needed.

As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, I cannot stress enough the importance of family should practice oversight with all elderly loved ones when prescribed medication must be taken. This is another reason for having a working knowledge of the medical diagnosis, functional ability, physical conditions, and even the prognosis of your loved one. Be Safe! Be well! Bye for now!



Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman

Dr. Hickman is the author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor and The Black Book of Important for Caregivers.