Senior Drug Misuse and Abuse

The following article is provided by Cincinnati-based senior home care provider, A Caring Choice. We consider A Caring Choice to be a subject matter expert on senior care and commend them for winning Business of the Year from the Colerain Chamber 2015, and USA Cincinnati Chamber 2014. We encourage our subscribers to sign up for their free monthly newsletter Cincy Senior Corner on their website.

Underestimated and under diagnosed, senior drug misuse and abuse means older adults don’t get the help they need.

seniorMore than 80 percent of seniors age 57 to 85 use at least one daily medication, and more than half take at least five medications or supplements daily, reports The National Institutes of Health (NIH). These older adults are more likely to use long-term prescriptions, use medication improperly, or use another’s medication to save money. All increase the risk of bad drug interactions.

Older adults are in danger of misusing and abusing drugs, particularly by accident. Their bodies have trouble metabolizing drugs. Some medicines they use don’t mix well with other prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies. And according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), highly addictive drugs for anxiety, pain and insomnia often are prescribed for them.

Possible Causes, Likely Symptoms

Life changes can lead to dependency on drugs (and even alcohol):

  • Retirement, loss of income or financial strain
  • Death of a spouse, family member, close friend or pet
  • Loss of mobility, relocation or nursing home placement
  • Family conflict
  • Mental health decline such as depression, stress and memory loss
  • Physical health decline due to major surgeries and pain

Unfortunately, symptoms of dependency often mimic those of actual diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, dementia or depression, or aging itself, the FDA advises.

Treatment and Prevention

Older adults don’t always realize the risks of drug interactions, may be reluctant to admit a problem or ask for help. If family and friends recognize what’s going on, they may not want to intervene—or believe seniors are less likely to benefit from treatment, or that it’s a waste of resources to try.

A family member or friend may need to accompany a senior on doctor visits, organize the older adult’s prescriptions and monitor his or her daily regimen. Abuse may require detoxification, counseling to change unhealthy thinking patterns, and medications to counter the effects of other drugs or relieve withdrawal symptoms—not to mention ongoing support to recover fully.

Prevention is key:

  • Manufacturers can develop safe, effective and non-addicting pain medications.
  • Doctors can spend more time with patients, look for symptoms, notice increases in amounts and frequency of refill requests, and watch for patients who change providers to get prescriptions they want.
  • Pharmacists can help patients understand instructions for medications and watch for prescription falsifications or alterations.

With the help of family and friends, seniors can:

  • Inform doctors about all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and dietary and herbal supplements.
  • Ask questions about potential interactions with other drugs and alcohol.
  • Follow pharmacist and label directions.
  • Store medications safely.
  • Get rid of unused or expired medications.

Editor’s remarks: DL MoneyMatters and A Caring Choice may from time to time exchange articles for publishing to our respective audiences. We welcome your feedback and hope that you share it with your friends and colleagues who have an interest in topics related to personal finance and senior care.

Sandwich Grandparents

We frequently talk about children of aging parents taking charge of the financial well-being of those who raised them. What about the financial challenges of the “Sandwiched Grandparents”? According to recent stats, there are 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren at a time in their life when they should be saving for retirement. Take Monica and Jake for example…

grandfatherMonica and Jake are in their early 60s. Monica is a former schoolteacher, and Jake expects to retire at 67 from an engineering job with the State of Ohio. Looking forward to retirement, they downsize to what they call their “everlasting house”—a single story 2-bedroom home on a little lake, just perfect for retirement years. Six carefree months pass before they hear devastating news—their only son, Jess, an Army veteran with a wife and child based in California is killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. His widow Darlene is now the sole caretaker of 5-year Melody, but at the funeral they are once again hit with an emotional bombshell: Jess’s widow Darlene struggles with drug addiction. Monica and Jake take temporary custody, and two years later, full custody.

Variations of this story affect millions. University of Toronto professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, is an expert in the phenomena of grandparents raising grandchildren. She says in an interview, “You should be saving for retirement; instead, you’re spending your savings and it’s very hard to get back to work.” She adds, “People who are older and living on fixed incomes really have a hard time stretching to meet clothing and bigger accommodation issues like having a larger home, and child-care issues.”

Apart from the financial downside of being a “sandwich grandparent” is that kids, especially very young ones, are constantly passing on their exposure to colds and other ailments; and grandma and grandpa get a lot less sleep. But the rewards often outweigh the risks knowing that their grandchildren are well cared for and their own lives are more active and meaningful.

In 1997, the Ohio General Assembly directed the Ohio Department of Aging to organize and chair a special “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” Task Force. Information is available here. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services offers a downloadable report Ohio Resource Guide for Relatives Caring for Children.

If you have a family friend or relative that is experiencing the joys and challenges of being a Sandwich Grandparent, we encourage you to forward this blog. If we can help with any money management issues or answer any questions, please call us at (513) 322-1036.

Elder Scam Update 2016

Elder scams continue to haunt many senior citizens and the scammers are getting smarter all the time. Even Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he almost fell for a financial scam when a fraudster posing as an IRS agent left a number to call him back. Before he did, he ran the given phone number through a Google search and learned that it connected to a well-known scam. He said that the IRS has recorded 290,000 scam calls since October 2013.

We encourage you to read the article 8 Costly Scams That Target Senior Citizens published this year by After you’ve absorbed these threats to our elders, please share this with friends and family, especially those in retirement, and help reduce scam calls going forward.

Here’s the article. Note: turn up your volume to listen the the video that autoplays on opening the page.

Footnote: If you think you or someone you love has been the victim of an identity scam, check your credit report for free on myBankrate.