Medication and Older Adults: Your Role in Lowering Risk of Adverse Drug Events


The majority of older adults in the U.S. take one or more prescription medicines. Even more take non-prescription, or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.

Medicines are useful to treat or manage many health issues. But sometimes they have unwanted side effects, also called adverse drug events (ADEs).

Some reasons older adults are at risk for unwanted side effects are:

  • The normal effects of age on the body can change the way the body and medicines work together.
  • Taking different medicines together may cause drug-drug interactions and change the way medicines work. Interactions can happen with prescription medicines, non-prescription medicines, and herbal remedies.

Here are several things you can do:

It’s also important to keep a personal medication list with your name on it that includes:

  • The drug name
  • The dose
  • How you take it
  • How often you take it
  • What it is for
  • Who told you to take it
  • When you starting taking it
  • Any special instructions
  • Put any over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies you take on the list
  • Show the list to every doctor or health care provider at each visit

When dealing with medications, tell your health care providers about allergic reactions or adverse drug reactions that you’ve had in the past.

It’s also important to talk to your health care provider or pharmacist before starting any new over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies, as well as visiting the same pharmacy to get all of your prescriptions filled so that you can ask questions before stopping any medications.

Click here for a free guide with more information about medicines and older adults.

About the author

Sonya Flanders, RN, ACNS-BC
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Sonya is an adult clinical nurse specialist with Baylor and moved to Texas from Canada to become a Baylor nurse. She's focused on enhancing health education of older adults along with their families and caregivers.

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Medication and Older Adults: Your Role in Lowering Risk of Adverse Drug Events