Living with the mental and physical impact of medication.4 min read

Having worked with older and disabled people over the last 13 years in the third sector, my experience of clients knowledge and understanding of their prescribed medication can sometimes be astounding.

I essentially help people get their homes adapted, maintained and made safe so that they are able to live independently. This can also involve general advice and assisting with benefit and disability allowances applications.

Many of my clients are aged over 70 and come from an era where whatever their professional, whether it be a doctor, nurse or specialist say or prescribes, that is what they believe is right. They feel that it is disrespectful to challenge or refuse the medication. Very few will stand up and say they don’t agree.

Even if the medication they are taking makes them feel worse, very few will go against the advice of their GP.

I do not confess to be a medical expert but in my experience with older and vulnerable people, I can identify particular health problems and noted side effects. Long term pain killer use as well as being addictive also can cause memory loss. Many people don’t know that and worry that Dementia is setting in. Majority of people are on gastro pump inhibitors to prevent or heal ulcers and stomach problems. Usually originally caused by other medication. These should only be used short term as they in turn can cause other more serious health problems and coming off them can also experience extreme versions of what the medication was for.

When asking many of my clients which medication they are taking, the usual answer is “lots” or I’m rattling. If asked what each is for, many don’t actually know. They may have been told many years ago but can’t remember. When asked do they read the information leaflet, if they were interested at all some say it’s in too small print or they get the dosette box with no leaflet. This is probably not the case but as they get older it is taken for granted that their health is going to suffer, medication may make some things more bearable and so best not to know the effects or if it might be addictive. Even when medication is reviewed, many don’t like to admit to any problems. I find much of this out when applying for mobility allowances such as Attendance Allowance. This is possibly the only time they will be completely honest about all their health problems.

Even when medication is reviewed, many don’t like to admit to any problems. I find much of this out when applying for mobility allowances such as Attendance Allowance. This is possibly the only time they will be completely honest about all their health problems.

Why when in hospital are patients woken up to be given sleeping tablets?

Just because someone is getting older, their health problems should be diagnosed by listening to the problems not just throwing medication at it.

We know that we can learn about controlling some health issues by diet, exercise or relaxation therapies, why aren’t older people being offered more of this instead of them having to take 4 or more, some up to 15 different medications in one day.

How many of those medications are addictive or have extreme side effects or will be fatal if forgotten to be taken.

I always believed that we are told to understand our own bodies first then ask advice, but it seems if many people have the audacity to make their own opinion of their medication of diagnosis this will be frowned upon.

I have had occasions where I have had to leave homes of clients because their spouse has become irate even verbally abusive. The explanation is that it is the medication causing it or that I shouldn’t visit before a certain time in order to give the medication time to kick in. Again not being a medical expert I cannot say that these are true effects or if they are used as an excuse for behaviour. But if more education to the medication available and being prescribed was available and in simple terms and people were given more choices instead of told?

Many older people when they start suffering with physical health problems start to suffer with depression and anxiety or are diagnosed bi polar. I can see the downward spiral to many of these peoples lives when given medication rather than alternative therapies or counselling about lifestyle or even just changes to their daily routine. When asked about their health issues, they start with the mental health rather than the obvious physical problems. They feel powerless and give up. Those not taking up the medication can often combat this and mange to regain the control of their life, regain their social life and try and help others.

When asked about their health issues, they start with the mental health rather than the obvious physical problems. They feel powerless and give up. Those not taking up the medication can often combat this and mange to regain the control of their life, regain their social life and try and help others.

Many thanks to our contributor:

C.W.

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