Comment: Seniors at risk for opioid poisoning – how caregivers can help

(NC) Older adults experience higher rates of chronic pain and disease than the general population and are therefore routinely prescribed opioids to deal with pain associated with conditions such as arthritis and cancer. This may help explain why they have a higher rate of hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning than any other age group, according to a recent report.

While the causes of these hospitalizations vary by case, there are some general practices that caregivers, family members and friends can employ to help keep seniors safe.

Understand health issues and prescriptions.

Multiple medications are often prescribed to deal with the added medical conditions of aging. That’s why it’s crucial to know what has been prescribed and how it may react with other medications or illnesses. Share this list with all prescribing physicians and discuss concerns or questions about interactions with the prescriber or pharmacist.

Monitor daily dosages.

With seniors often having many prescriptions with varying dosage schedules, it’s important to ensure that they are taking their recommended daily dosage at the appropriate times.

Have naloxone on hand.

Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of known or suspected opioid overdoses, and many provinces offer both the nasal and injectable versions for free. Training on how to identify an overdose and administer naloxone is available from your local pharmacist. If you or someone you know has been prescribed an opioid, talk you your local pharmacist about getting a naloxone kit so you’ll be prepared to respond if you encounter an opioid overdose.

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