About 80 local folks turned out to hear an informative presentation by Donex pharmacist Julie Lange at the Age Friendly Society of the South Cariboo event held at Creekside Seniors Activity Centre on Dec. 6. Carole Rooney photo.

Ageing safely with medications

Local pharmacist presents information at seniors centre

Creekside Seniors Activity Centre was packed with about 80 ageing residents who turned out to hear what pharmacist Julie Lange had to say at the latest Age Friendly Society of the South Cariboo (AFSSC) event on Dec. 6.

While Lange had the crowd chuckling at times with her presentation, the pharmacist also held their attention as she laid out common mistakes and misunderstandings she sees that too often lead to troubles down the road, particularly for seniors.

With about six years under her belt working at Donex Pharmacy, she joked about the number of people who still welcome her as a “new pharmacist” or assume she is an assistant or a nurse. Lange explained this lack of recognition is due to all her behind-the-scenes work that she really enjoys doing, such as administering vaccines and preparing blister-packs for seniors.

“I absolutely love the ageing population. The older you are, the more I love you,” she said, prompting more laughter.

Lange delivered a wide range of advice on medications, including some important precautions to take along with your daily doses or occasional use, as well as what to discuss with your pharmacist and what to ask your family doctor.

On one of her more serious points, she noted one-third of hospital admissions for patients over age 75 were linked to drug-related problems, whether this means side effects, or patients taking improper doses or the wrong medications.

“There is a list out there called the ‘beers list’ … compiled by pharmacists and doctors, nurses, physiotherapists – there’s a whole realm of people that get involved every year to evaluate medications [for seniors]. They look at a balancing scale between risks versus benefits.”

For seniors, in particular, there are some commonly-used drugs that often do more harm than good, she explained. There is a pocket card you may request from your pharmacy, she said, adding it’s also a good idea to carry your own drug-name lists at all times.

While she strongly cautioned against any sudden stop in medications, Lange recommended folks do ask their physician and read the labels and drug information sheets on what they do take, a theme she emphasized throughout the presentation.

The list of drugs the local pharmacist covered at the hour-and-a-half event included some over-the-counter “first generation” allergy and antihistamines, like Benadryl, often used for sleep aids and other purposes.

“It’s really good at getting into the brain, which is a good thing for what it’s intended for – it’s a bad thing when you are considering the risk of falls, the risk of confusion. There are other alternatives out there.”

There are second-generation antihistamines designed to help control allergic reactions without getting into the brain, such as Clariton and Reactine, she explained.

Lange said another high-risk drug for seniors’ falls and fractures, delirium and confusion is benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, lorazepam, oxazepam, commonly used for anxiety and insomnia. These also hugely increase the chance of being in a motor-vehicle accident and have now been linked with cognitive decline, so if you are over the age of 65, she recommended against long-term use, beyond occasional needs such as a night’s sleep, an MRI or dental visit.

Talking to your doctor and your pharmacist is a theme Lange repeated throughout her presentation, encouraging the seniors present against being fearful of doing that, no matter how embarrassed they may feel. All pharmacy discussions with clients of any age are kept confidential, she explained, so even when it comes to illegal drug use or excessive alcohol consumption, being open with pharmacists and health care providers is your best chance of appropriate risk mitigation.

With the host of other drug issues, from insulin to ibuprofen, and numerous other ways for ageing residents to take care of their health with better control of their medications, Lange urged all those in attendance to take the time to do their own reviews and to talk to their health experts.

For more information on the Age-Friendly Society of the South Cariboo, contact Lea Smirfitt at 250-791-6406 or e-mail psmir fitt@xplornet.com.

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