Pain Management in the Elderly: The Surprising Impact of Opioids

Pain Management in the ElderlyPerhaps, like many of us are prone to do, you have a preconceived notion of certain stereotypical groups of people. As an example, what ideas immediately come to mind when you hear “drug addict”? A young adult unable to get through daily life without a fix, maybe resorting to a life of crime to finance his or her addiction?

If that’s the case, you may be surprised to learn that seniors are breaking the mold, unintentionally dealing with significant addiction difficulties – namely, to opioids. Even though the drugs are usually prescribed only for short-term pain relief, longer term use of them can cause addiction. Nevertheless, the American Geriatric Society updated its guidelines in 2009 to strongly recommend their use in seniors, who, they reasoned, are less likely to become addicted.

Dr. Mel Pohl, of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, however, begs to differ. “There’s no factual, scientific basis for that. The drug takes over in the brain. It doesn’t matter how old the brain is,” he explains.

As many as 15% of patients are receiving an opioid prescription when leaving the hospital, and almost half of them are still taking that medication 3 months later. The potential to become addicted at that point is alarming. Opioids themselves might leave elderly people fatigued, groggy, and depressed, and the results of stopping the medicine once addicted can be more serious: nausea, sweating, muscle aches, and more.

So what’s the answer? Equipping yourself with information and asking about safer alternatives to opioids for your mature loved ones is a good place to start. However, understand that even over-the-counter pain medications may be hazardous for aging adults, making it challenging for doctors to know how to best control senior pain – balancing risks with the need to eliminate suffering in older patients.

It’s actually essential for everyone, regardless of age, to become informed about our conditions and treatment options, and then make intelligent decisions in our care – and, to take medications exactly as prescribed, for the timeframe they are prescribed.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care, a top rated home care company in Joseph, MI, can assist with pain management in the elderly in a variety of ways to help avoid opioid dependency. We can provide transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ visits and procedures, pick up medications, and provide medication reminders to make certain older adults are on track with appropriate medication management. View our full service area and contact us any time to discover more ways we can help keep your senior loved one safe and well, right at home.

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