Elderly Care: 9 Medicines Which Seniors Must Avoid

Elderly Care: 9 Medicines Which Seniors Must Avoid

Old age comes with its own set of problems that can only be prevented/cured with the help of medications. With age, it is inevitable that medications will increase too and it is the duty of the caregiver to help monitor these medicines as a part of quality elderly care.

Because older adults often have long-term health conditions that require treatment with multiple medications, there is a greater chance of experiencing unwanted drug side effects. Older people can also be more sensitive to certain medications.

Did you know that, on average, people over 65 take 14 – 18 prescription medications a year? Medication is helpful in so many cases. That makes it easy to forget that drugs can also worsen, or even cause, health problems. Plus, taking multiple medications increases the chances of having serious side effects or interactions.

It’s no secret that when you get older, your body doesn’t function the way it used to and that’s true for how you react to the medicine. Your digestive system might not absorb medications as quickly; liver problems might mean the drug builds up in the bloodstream or doesn't get into it as fast as it should, and kidney trouble could affect how well medicine moves out of your body as waste.

Unfortunately, some doctors too end up over-prescribing medicines to seniors. Therefore, it becomes even more significant that caregivers be aware of the importance of advocacy in healthcare. To help, here is a list of 9 medications that seniors should avoid or use with caution.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Prescription anti-anxiety drugs include a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, lorazepam, or clonazepam. They can increase your risk for falls, as well as cause confusion. In an older person, prolonging their action can cause unwanted effects.


Over-the-counter antihistamines offer quick allergy symptom relief. But some, such as chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness and confusion in older adults, which can also lead to falls. Diphenhydramine is also a common ingredient in non-prescription sleep aids. They may help you fall asleep, but they can make you groggy and unsteady when you awaken and try to walk.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs reduce fever, pain, and inflammation. They're available over the counter in lower doses and by prescription in higher doses. But long-term NSAID use is linked to ulcers, stomach bleeding, kidney problems, high blood pressure, and increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Sleeping Pills

Some benzodiazepines, such as temazepam (Restoril) or triazolam (Halcion), are used as sleep aids. They have been known to cause problems with daytime sleepiness, an increased risk for falls, memory impairment, worsening of sleep-disordered breathing, and drug dependence.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclics are an older class of antidepressants. Their side effects may be particularly difficult for older people: memory problems, confusion, constipation, dry mouth, blurry vision, irregular heart rhythms, and (for men) problems with urinating.

Muscle Relaxants

Your doctor may suggest these drugs to ease muscle spasms, which can make seniors feel confused and disoriented. That could raise your chances of falling and hurting yourself.


Doctors may prescribe these drugs to help treat conditions like Parkinson's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression. But anticholinergics can cause confusion, dry mouth, and blurry vision, especially in older adults. Older men are more likely to cause problems with urination.


These drugs treat mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and are risky for some older adults. Taking antipsychotics raises your chances of a life-threatening heart problem or even a brain bleed if you have dementia.

Combination Drugs

Look carefully at the labels of over-the-counter medicines to see if they have more than one active ingredient. Some cold and sinus medications, for example, have decongestants along with antihistamines. The combination can make you confused, drowsy, and groggy. It can also raise your blood pressure and cause problems going to the bathroom.

As a caregiver, you must remain alert where your senior loved ones’ medications are concerned. Elderly Care requires you to keep a list of their medications handy at all times and monitor their intake. Make sure they’re taking the medicines on time as well as the appropriate dosage. If your senior loved one is taking one or more medicines on the above list, speak to their doctor immediately.

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