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.

Amended Bill to Protect Seniors

The vast majority of cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults in the United States go unidentified and unreported. Not less than $2,900,000,000 is taken from older adults each year due to financial abuse and exploitation. Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation have no boundaries and cross all racial, social, class, gender, and geographic lines. Older adults who are abused are 3 times more likely to die earlier than older adults of the same age who are not abused. Up to half of all older adults with dementia will experience abuse.

Almost 3 billion dollars? It’s sound unbelievable, but these words are from the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act passed by the House and sent to the President this week.

Abuse of senior citizens comes from a multitude of sources. So what can we do to help protect the seniors we love?


  • Choose caregivers carefully
  • Keep an inventory of jewelry and other valuables in the senior’s home
  • Gift your senior with a shredder and teach them the importance of using it
  • Monitor their incoming and outgoing mail
  • Obtain their credit score annually
  • Remind them never to answer a phone call that doesn’t have caller ID
  • If having work done in their home or residence, ask to see the worker’s license
  • Review bank statements and credit card bills monthly
  • Talk to your senior about scams and warn them that they may be victimized
  • Stay involved in their life so you can spot warning signs of abuse before they happen
  • If you suspect a scam, call law enforcement to report it


Medicare/Health Insurance Scams: someone posing as a Medicare representative asking for personal information or providing bogus services from mobile clinics with the intent of gaining personal information so they can bill Medicare and pocket the money.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: usually sold over the Internet at cheap prices. They may resemble real drugs but either won’t help a person’s condition or be harmful.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams: Grieving widows or widowers are told their deceased loved one had an outstanding debt with them to extort money to settle the fake debt, or funeral homes that add unnecessary charges or try to up-sell more expensive caskets or funeral services.

Anti-Aging Products: Completely bogus products that do nothing to reverse the signs of aging, and may have toxic consequences.

Telemarketing/phone Scams: With no paper trail or face-to-face interaction, a con artist might lie about finding a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment first, or a lie about a child or relative being in the hospital and needing money, or fake charities that are rampant after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.

Internet Fraud: Popup windows that fool victims into downloading virus-scanning software that is actually a virus, then demanding money to remove it, or an email message that appears to be from a legitimate, familiar company asking them verify or update personal information.

Investment Schemes: Foreigners seeking U.S. partners to claim inheritance money, or complex financial products, are completely fraudulent.

Phony Reverse Mortgages: A “request” from the County Assessor’s Office to, for a fee, reassess the value of a home to reduce the tax burden.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: A phony call or letter saying they have won a lottery or contest of some kind but need to make a payment to “unlock” the prize.

The Grandma Scam: Grandma receives a call from someone who says, “Hi grandma, know who this is?” The unsuspecting grandma guesses a name, and the caller agrees. Once the connection is established, the scammer asks for money to be wired via Western Union to solve a problem (car repairs, medical expenses, etc.).