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GoodRx Health11 Medications That Can Cause Confusion and Other Serious Side Effects in the Elderly

Navigating Medication Sensitivity in Elderly Patients: A Comprehensive Guide to Safer Prescribing Practices

As the demographic of older adults continues to grow, understanding the nuances of medication sensitivity in this age group is paramount. This article provides a detailed exploration of medications that pose increased risks to the elderly, offering insights into safer alternatives and prescribing practices. The focus is on mitigating common adverse effects such as confusion, low blood pressure, and falls, which can have significant implications for the health and well-being of older patients.

Key Points:

  • Adults aged 65 and older exhibit increased sensitivity to medication side effects, necessitating careful consideration of drug choices to avoid adverse outcomes.
  • The American Geriatrics Society highlights a list of medications potentially risky for older adults, emphasizing the importance of monitoring and alternative options.
  • First-generation antihistamines like diphenhydramine are discouraged in the elderly due to heightened risks of confusion, constipation, and dry mouth.
  • Sleep medications, particularly “Z-drugs” and benzodiazepines, are associated with increased risks of delirium, falls, and cognitive issues in older adults.
  • Muscle relaxers and antispasmodics are linked to side effects such as confusion and drowsiness, increasing the risk of falls and other complications.
  • Antipsychotics, including Seroquel, can cause severe side effects like confusion and dizziness and are linked to higher mortality rates when used in dementia patients.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants are known for adverse effects like confusion and low blood pressure, making them less suitable for the elderly.
  • Certain pain medications and alpha blockers are associated with an increased risk of confusion and hypotension, especially risky for older individuals.
  • Long-acting sulfonylureas, used for Type 2 diabetes management, may lead to prolonged hypoglycemia in the elderly, suggesting a need for safer alternatives.
  • A holistic approach, including non-pharmacologic interventions and consultation with healthcare providers, is vital for optimizing medication regimens in older patients.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an estimated 34.5% of ED visits for adverse drug events occurred among adults aged 65 years or older in 2013-2014 compared with an estimated 25.6% in 2005-2006.

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