Senior citizens purchase 35-40% of all prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Seniors between the ages of 65-84 take from 14-to-18 prescriptions annually. Up to 25% of these medications are considered unnecessary or inaccurate.
The Internet offers numerous articles and other information on how senior citizens can protect themselves from over-medication and other unnecessary treatments. Some of these articles are written by physicians who realize that medical drugs are not the answer to all health conditions. Additionally, a recent midwestern newspaper article indicates that less than half of our medical care is supported by adequate scientific evidence. These kind of articles also offer recommendations for protection from the harmful side effects of too much medication.
1. Good insurance pays. Although health insurance is a good thing to have nowadays, do keep in mind that your insurance and drug plans could be prevailed upon for medical business reasons. If you already have medicare and other health insurance, your health condition could inadvertently be targeted for more treatments than really necessary.
2. Common sense. Listen to your best instincts about the treatments you might or might not need. Do not passively accept medication without knowing its exact health goal and purpose first. Ask questions about your prescription and why you need it for your specific condition? Make sure this treatment makes sense to you.
Although senior citizens account for only 13% of the population, they purchase up to 40% of all medications. Therefore, document any side effects from your prescriptions, and report them to your doctor, e.g., headache, cough, drowsiness, dizziness, pain, itching, gas, upset stomach, or constipation. Your doctor can change these medications if they cause you discomfort.
3. Take someone with you to an appointment. Take a friend or family member with you when you see your doctor. This person will add to your advocacy by giving you emotional support, and by helping you thwart questionable prescriptions or treatments. Three heads are better than one. Also, remember that 77% of the seniors between the ages of 65-70 have at least one chronic illness. Thus, you could really need one or two prescriptions of some kind.
Yet, other prescriptions are questionable. For example, if you have a desirable cholesterol level lower than 200-mg/dL, and your doctor prescribes a statin drug to enhance your cholesterol level, you will need to question that recommendation to find out exactly why you need it for your apparent condition. Will it affect your other bodily systems in some way, good or bad? In another reported situation, a study at a northwestern state university found that some doctors were prescribing powerful anti-psychotic drugs to patients for mild depression, anxiety, and insomnia. These drugs are approved only for serious mental and emotional disorders. Otherwise, the effects from these drugs can be harmful.
Still other adverse medical effects can be somewhat innocent. In one case, a senior started taking two common OTC pills daily to help reduce hip pain. However, these pills thinned that person’s blood, which caused his or her small colon fissures to bleed. After the resulting bleeding showed up in the stool, this senior was much relieved to find out it was not caused by cancer.
4. Learn about your medical condition. If you have a computer available, search the Internet for reliable information about your condition, and how to treat it. If not, try a public or medical library to find out as much about it as you can. This kind of knowledge is defensive power in favor of your continued good health.
5. Keep and carry your own set of records. Carry your basic health history and information with you, in writing. List your chronic conditions, medications, allergies, blood type as well as your doctor’s name and phone number. Also keep a copy of these life-saving records in the open at your residence in case of an emergency, or in case you become unconscious and cannot provide this information verbally. Additionally, if possible, add copies of your laboratory test results to these records. Your life could depend on them.
6. Report suspected abuse or fraud. Medicare fraud costs tax payers multiple millions of dollars, and causes health insurance premiums to rise sharply. Study the suspect fraud carefully, and then report it. Such abuse can be reported to a senior-medicare patrol in your area or state if they exist. These offices or patrols are found at the government agencies on aging. For starters, see the links below for prevention and protection.
1. Avoid Medication Problems — http://longevity.about.com/od/optimizemedicalcare/a/medications.htm
2. Report Medicare Fraud — http://www.medicare.gov/fraudabuse/howtoreport.asp
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