When people think of others who are addicted to prescription drugs, they usually think of crazy teenagers or people on the street. However, opioid addiction is out of control in one surprising segment of the population—senior citizens. Family caregivers need to be aware that even their elderly relative can easily succumb to opioids unless they have a strong support group and diligent care from family, friends and elderly care assistants.
Opioid Addiction and Elderly Adults
Most people know that the opioid abuse is climbing to epidemic levels throughout the United States and elderly adults are no exception. Opioids are used to treat chronic pain but over time the body acclimates. This means the patient has to take more just to get the same effect. Since opioids are prescription drugs, they are not illegal and when used as directed, they are not dangerous. The problems arise when seniors take the opioids improperly and become addicted.
Seniors are also in a prime place to get lots of opioids. They are more likely to struggle with chronic pain from diseases and illnesses related to aging. This age group is also at risk for more surgeries and sudden health problems that relate to aging. Doctors are also more likely to prescribe opioids to elderly patients because some of the others, such as ibuprofen, may boost bleeding risks for them. All this means is that seniors are often able to get their hands on opioids with relative ease.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs
It can be hard for family caregivers and even doctors to recognize the warning signs in elderly adults that are addicted to opioids. That’s because so many of the symptoms mimic age-related conditions. However, with careful attention and help from others such as elderly care aides, family caregivers can check out whether their aging relative may be showing warning signs.
Some of the risk factors for addicted elderly adults include those that are in chronic pain, take multiple pills per day and have a low tolerance for pain. Behavior patterns that might suggest they are looking for more opioids include frequently losing bottles, emptying a bottle too soon, insisting on a doctor visit for more pills, or visiting multiple doctors for multiple prescriptions. Physical warning signs include mood swings, irritation, memory loss, confusion, excessive sleepiness and headaches. If family members try to control the intake of the drugs, the elderly adult may become possessive, angry or insulted.
Family members need to do everything they can to help their elderly relative in taking powerful and effective opioids safely and reasonably. If they accompany their loved one to the doctor’s office, they can be more involved in the treatment process. It’s important that everyone that helps care for the elderly adult, such as other family members, volunteers and elderly care assistants, also be informed of the strict dosage schedule and follow it exactly. While opioids are effective and powerful pain killers, they can end up doing more harm than good if seniors become addicted.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in Hamilton, NJ, please call the caring staff at Care Street Home Care. You can reach our Mercer/Burlington Division at (609) 496-5666.
Dr. Shelly, as he is fondly known, has served as an Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator in Mercer County and is a Certified Dementia Instructor. Knowledgeable, compassionate, and unusually devoted, his guidance is crucial in helping families understand their options and render decisions for their loved ones’ care plan. Dr. Shelly’s extensive experience, sincere and pleasant demeanor, and professional affiliations have made him a vital asset to Care Street.
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