Inappropriate Drugs May Harm Your Senior — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Many seniors take more than one medication each day, often taking multiple prescription medications.

On top of that, they may use even more over the counter remedies to give them relief.

Are some of these medications really good for them?

Can some be dangerous?

To help keep our seniors safe from the medications that they may be prescribed, there is guidance for physicians established – called the Beers Criteria – which lists medications that may be inappropriate for older adults or have limited effectiveness.

This evidenced-based list was updated in October 2015, following a review of current research, and is published by the American Geriatrics Society.

There are potentially 40 problematic medications or classes of medications organized across the five lists that comprise the Beers Criteria.

Inappropriate Medications

It is important for seniors and their family caregivers to discuss potentially inappropriate medications with their doctor before stopping any prescription drugs.

Seniors may experience serious side effects from some of these potentially harmful drugs. In fact, 1 in 6 seniors has side effects caused by their medications.

Some of the drugs on the list should be avoided or dosed specifically to decrease the likelihood of injury.

There may be alternative treatments or non-prescription interventions that can help your senior.

The expert panel co-chair, Donna Fick, states:

The AGS Beers Criteria offer guidance to clinicians and the public for talking about medications with risks that may outweigh benefits. It’s important to remember that many of these medications are considered potentially inappropriate only in certain circumstances and for certain people. Tools like the AGS Beers Criteria can do much to support medication use that is safe, effective, and responsive to each person’s health needs.”

Some of their recommendations include:

  • Avoid 13 known combination drugs that may cause a drug-drug interaction
  • Avoid as many as 20 drugs if your senior has kidney impairment
  • Use of some drugs can lead to increased falls, fractures, urinary tract infections, and medication toxicity
  • Caution with proton pump inhibitors prescribed for acid reflux as they can lead to bone loss and falls with fractures
  • Avoid antipsychotics for behavioral issues

You can review the entire Beers Criteria list of medications.

Additional Resources

Because our senior loved ones take many medications and there are a variety of things to consider when taking multiple medications, here are more resources for you to learn more about safe medication management.