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Monitoring Seniors' Prescriptions

Most people rely on their doctors to prescribe the right kinds of medicine to cure what ails them, but a new study from the Centers for Disease Control suggests a number of elderly Americans are actually being given the wrong kinds drugs and its having a serious impact on their health.

The Early Show Medical Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay gave details on HealthWatch.

The study focuses on doctors visits from 1995 to 2000. It found that medication was inappropriately prescribed in about 7.8 percent of those visits. In 2000 alone, there were more than 16 million doctors visits where at least one drug was inappropriately prescribed to a patient.

Certain drugs that may not have an effect on children and middle-aged adults can have significant side effects on elderly patients. Senay says there are various negative side effects that are unnecessarily putting elderly patients at risk. Some of the side effects commonly found were vertigo, confusion, memory loss, high blood pressure and low blood sugar.

Senay says elderly using prescriptions have to be careful because the drugs that are being taken to improve a condition may actually be having an adverse effect.

Drugs that are prescribed most frequently are certain pain relievers, antihistamines, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants. Senay suggests to any elder person, who have medication that falls under any of those categories, to consult their doctor and make sure they're not doing more harm than good.

If you're concerned you may be receiving the improper medication, or the medication you are receiving is having significant side effects, Senay says to urge doctors to try an alternative. Patients don't always know what drugs are considered dangerous for elderly patients and it's possible that the doctor may not be aware of the risks some of these medications pose. Also, the cost and patient demand of some drugs often plays a factor when a doctor writes a prescription. So, it's really important to familiarize yourself with medicine that may be harmful and talk to your doctor about it.

Senay says people taking on the responsibility of caring for their parents have to make it their responsibility to know what drugs the elder is prescribed. The adult children should be aggressive and ask their doctors if there is potential for serious side effects. Senay says the caretaker should also do some research. As parents get older, they sometimes become passive about what medicine their doctors are prescribing. So, Senay says, adult children have to be the ones making sure the drugs they're being prescribed will not cause unnecessary side effects.