top of page

Pill Burdens: Understanding Risk

Taking medicine is just a part of growing older. As our bodies age and we develop certain health conditions, we rely on medication to keep our bodies working optimally and ensure that we can keep doing the things we love. Not only is medication important for improving quality of life, but it is also an essential part of keeping disease progression at bay.

Despite how common it is to take medicine, it is still important to understand the risk that comes with taking certain medications.

High-Risk Medicines

Skeletal Muscle Relaxants

Medications within this category can cause significant side effects, including worsened cognition and behavioral problems, especially in those with dementia. Additional side effects can include incontinence, urinary retention, sedation, confusion, and weakness.


Older antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and hydroxyzine, can cause worsened cognition and behavioral problems, especially in those with dementia, while also having side effects of incontinence and confusion.


These medicines can increase the risk of GI bleeding and peptic ulcer diseases in all individuals, but especially those in high-risk groups. High risk individuals include those over the age of 65, or those with diabetes, cardiovascular disease hypertension, renal or liver impairments, and a history of GI bleeding or peptic ulcers.

Oral Estrogens

The drop in estrogen experienced during menopause can cause many unpleasant side effects, leading many women to take oral estrogen. However, this medication can have side effects that include an increased risk of breast or endometrial cancer, and they also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in older women.

Decreasing Potential Pill Burden

Store Medicine Correctly

Medicine needs to be stored in the correct environment to prevent premature degradation. In some cases, this degradation can result in ineffective medicine, but in others, medicine can break down into dangerous compounds that cause adverse effects.

Because of this, caregivers need to follow the storage instructions as indicated on the medication bottle. In most cases, this involves storing medicine in a cool, dry place.

Throw Away Expired Medicine

Similar to storing medicine incorrectly, medicine can also degrade and become dangerous or less effective over time. Caregivers should check the expiration date of medication before offering it to a senior, especially medicines not taken as often.

Take Your Own Medicine

Seniors, especially, should be careful about taking any medicine not prescribed by their doctor. This is because seniors are more likely to take multiple medications, increasing the likelihood of two medications reacting negatively towards each other. In some cases, this reaction can negate the benefits of a particular drug, while in others, it can cause harmful side effects.

The Importance of Medication Safety

Medicine is often an essential aspect of maintaining health in seniors. To ensure that it achieves this goal and does not cause further problems to the body, it is crucial to follow medication safety. Caregivers play an essential role in ensuring that seniors take their medicine and watching for potentially dangerous side effects that medicine may cause.

If you are interested in the role a caregiver holds in medicine safety, reach out to Long Life Care Management at (404) 310-3567 to learn about all the benefits a care manager can offer you and your loved one.

bottom of page