PSA: Is It Time to Talk to Your Parents about Drugs?

Today started at and was one of those go!go!go! days, so this post is being written by the tiredest person you know. (Shared just in case someone asks, “Who’s the tiredest person you know?” Now you’ll have an answer readily available.)

Most of the day was spent with senior types, starting with a 6 a.m. Wally pick-up. Despite my repeated instructions to wait inside, Wally was standing in his driveway holding onto the side of his house to keep himself upright and shaking so hard he could barely get in my car. When I asked what was wrong, he replied that he had walked inside that morning instead of outside and that had him “messed up.” Wha…?

Oh well, when you’re 87 years old, not everything is going to make sense. He’d had a somewhat similar shakiness on Monday morning, but once he ate breakfast, he was fine. He insisted he wanted to go to breakfast, so off we went. Heaven forbid that he miss a morning with the rest of the 80s crowd.

Not only did he eat just half his breakfast (unheard of with Wally), he seemed to be nodding off during the conversation. I was more than a little worried, so as soon as I could, I got him home. After he was safely inside, having promised to lie down for a while, I called his brother-in-law to report the situation. In talking to him, I remembered that Wally had told me this brother-in-law had given him some prescription pain medication earlier in the week. I asked about it and learned that the meds had belonged to Wally’s sister, who died three years ago. I don’t know if Wally took one of the pills last night, but I suggested the brother-in-law find out and then cautioned him against giving Wally anymore meds.

What’s especially alarming is that this isn’t the first time this week I’ve cautioned an older person about medication sharing. One of the “breakfast bunch” passed along a baggie of prescription Naprosyn to another group member who was having a flare-up of gout. I suggested he go to his doctor, and he said he would mention it next month when he already had an appointment scheduled. No need paying for two doctor’s visits. (And yes, my tongue is nearly severed from biting it, thank you for asking.)

It occurred to me today that if I’ve had this discussion twice in one week within one small group of senior citizens, then this may be a growing problem elsewhere. And it’s not just the sharing of medications that concerns me. With costs of everything rising and no options for increasing their income available for seniors, many are skimping on medications, or skipping them entirely.

So in the interest of the public good, I thought I’d put together a list of “talking points” to use if the time has come to have a sit-down with the senior-types in your life.

What to Say to Your Parents about Drugs

  • Know what you’re taking and why, as well as any possible side effects or possible interactions with foods and other drugs. If you don’t understand something, speak with your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider.
  • Take all medication as prescribed.
  • If there are multiple doses and/or prescriptions to be taken, establish a routine that ties the dosage with an activity. (For example, my father assigns his medications to breakfast and bedtime.)
  • Keep a list of all medications being taken (prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements/herbs) with you at all times.
  • Take medications even if you’re feeling better. Understand that you might be feeling better because of the medication and that stopping it may cause even more health problems.
  • Thriftiness is an admirable trait, but your health isn’t worth being too chintzy. If cost is truly an issue for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about generic medications, pill-cutting, or assistance programs that may be available in your area.
  • Throw away expired medications. Talk to your pharmacist to find out if the printed expiration date is “firm.”
  • Don’t share your medications with friends or family members. It’s dangerous and could lead to serious problems.

And for family members: keep an up-to-date list of parental meds on hand at all times. I have my parents’ meds stored in a google doc. That way, I can get to them via iphone or, God forbid, emergency room computer.

Feel free to add your own suggestions to the list.

The rest of my morning and early afternoon was devoted to my parents and Memaw. This required a tour of the garden:


Left-to-right: tomatoes, beans, corn, melons

It looks a lot different than last month, except that obscene scarecrow. Sadly, it remains as before–obscene.

The rest of my day was a flurry of errands and business-y things, and I’m more than ready to call it a day. Today was a scheduled off-day for exercise, but there wasn’t any resting going on. :)

Hope you all had a great day! I look forward to catching up with my reader tomorrow!

15 thoughts on “PSA: Is It Time to Talk to Your Parents about Drugs?

  1. Such important information in this post. I don’t know if there are any such information, but I would imagine that drug-related death rates must increase with age, precisely for the reasons you mention here. I’m just sad that drug use is so prevalent among older people…

  2. Seriously, good work, Cammy. Important information that would never have occurred to me. And I hope you can relinquish your title soon.

  3. Cammy – SUCH AN IMPORTANT POST! I know younger people that like to pass around prescription drugs as well. Just not a good idea. And they like to stop before they should too. A great post for all ages!

    My mom had one of those 7 day pill keepers & each day had the pills she had to take for the day. The key is to make sure the right pills get in the container each day but it is a start for help.

    THX & hope things slow down for you!

  4. Great post! I’d just add to include on your list ALL over the counter meds, herbals and vitamins. Don’t start any new over the counter med, herbal or vitamin without discussing it with your doctor. Many of those medications interact with prescriptions and can cause serious side effects. And….don’t ad just the dose of medications without discussing it with the doctor. A lot of my older patients just decide they’ll 1/2 or even 1/4 meds without advice. Bad idea. GREAT post and a very important subject.

  5. My MIL didn’t refill something once because it was expensive. Arrrgh. She has no idea what some of her meds are for. We finally got smart and put together a document that many family members can access but it would certainly help if she understood more about her own healthcare.

  6. Access to affordable health care in this country is so bad it is no wonder our seniors are sharing drugs, not taking meds. they should be taking and waiting to seek medical attention because of the cost. It’s scary. So glad Wally has you looking out for him.

    Memaw’s garden looks amazing, even with the obscene scarecrow.

    Get some rest ….

  7. I didn’t have so much trouble with the drugs with my dad and his wife. But they wouldn’t always go to the doctor when they needed to, even though they had a good health care plan and cost wasn’t the issue. Time was usually the issue. Or not wanting to bother the doctor. Aaargh.

  8. Good post, Cammy. Many family members don’t think to check on their older family members’ medication habits.

    Unfortunately, many senior medication “errors” are due to the outrageous price of meds – eat or take medications is a tough choice. Same goes with doctor visits.
    Jan – your local commenting physician in support of universal health coverage

  9. That is a wonderful garden!! It makes me happy just to see it. And you remind me to go water my tomatos.
    The medication sharing, etc, is an eye opener for me.
    Your list is really valuable. I hope it finds it’s way to the right eyes.
    Glad your Wally is okay.

  10. Great tips! My dad never takes anything (doesn’t ever go to the doctor, unfortunately). My mother is pretty diligent with her pill management, but I should make sure I know exactly what she takes and when.

  11. Great post Cammy! It is SO important to remind them about the meds. My Mom stores hers all in one box next to her bed and carries a list in her wallet.
    There are TONS of assistance programs to make medication affordable. One last tip is that if there are more than one of them taking the same meds, color code the pill bottles. It is too often that the wrong bottle can be grabbed.

  12. as a caregiver to a 91 year old that still lives on her own, I’m proud to say that I follow every one of your rules above. Everything else I completely relate to as if I had written it myself. Prescription sharing? Yes. Taking more meds than necessary? Yes. Taking someone else’s medication? Yes. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know whether she’s taken her meds or not, although for now we use a weekly pill box which I keep constant track of.
    Great post, Cammy. Thank you.

  13. This is a great post! My mom has to watch my dad’s med’s like a hawk! He gets them all messed up and confused. When she was sick once he brought her meds to her in bed, only problem was they were really his meds not hers!

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