Many older adults are not following the antibiotic instructions listed on their medications, a recent study reports.
The University of Michigan canvassed senior citizens between the ages of 50-80. The poll was based on a sample of more than 2,200 adults who were asked questions about several aspects of their antibiotic use.
The results are concerning — 25 percent of respondents said they take leftover antibiotics without checking with their doctors. This practice is risky. And, 40 percent said they expect doctors to prescribe antibiotics for a cold. Antibiotics, however, don’t work on colds or illnesses caused by viruses — they fight infections.
Older Adults: Why The Disconnect on Antibiotics?
The most plausible answer might be a lack of education on the dangers of antibiotic mishandling. Perhaps doctors and health providers need to do a better job. Safe handling is necessary to insure the effectiveness of antibiotics. Patient education is a most.
Thirteen percent of older adults said they had leftover pills from their last antibiotic prescription. This, even though most prescriptions require the patient take all doses of the drug. Of this group, most said they saved it in case they or a family member developed an infection. Only 20 percent disposed of the pills safely.
The study also found that older adults who stopped taking their antibiotics early were more likely to use the leftover doses without guidance.
Fifty percent of respondents said doctors over prescribe antibiotics, but 23 percent said physicians don’t prescribe them often enough.
Older Americans: What Say The Health Care Providers?
Health care providers have been targets of increasing criticism in the past 10 years as health systems, insurers and the federal government work to eliminate improper prescribing. Bad bugs — drug-resistant bacteria — are on the rise and are considered a serious threat by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“No one should hang on to old antibiotics just in case they or a loved one needs them,” says the CDC. “This carries many risks, including drug interactions, side effects, as well as resistance. Different antibiotics treat different types of infections. There is no one size fits all.”
The data indicate that millions of antibiotics are sitting in medicine cabinets across the country. Law enforcement organizations, pharmacies and health care facilities offer national drug-disposal programs. They offer drop-off days or drop-off bins for all forms of medication.