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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 7:06 am | Fair 44º

Your Health

Rona Barrett: A Prescription for Disaster

A friend showed me a tattered 1975 magazine article about “…a tycoon sacrificing everything for success.”   

She was regularly watched by 30 million television viewers and read by millions more in magazines, books and syndicated columns.  

Yet, throughout her 30-year career she was never satisfied. Like a never-sleeping shark, she was always on the hunt for a bigger bite of the audience share.

Yes, I was that woman. I magnified my goals as if looking at them through a telescope — the bigger the better.

Let’s fast-forward. Now I look at what I can realistically accomplish through an inverted telescope — a much narrower focus and smaller in scale.

This column is an example of that. I began Gray Matters nearly two years ago with one goal: if I can help just one senior or senior caregiver to think about an issue in a different way with each column — I will reach my goal.

And that goes for today’s column.

If you’re like me, sometimes you feel like you’re a walking medicine cabinet. That’s because seniors take about three times as many medications as our younger counterparts.

Remember how we used to take life with a grain of salt?  Now, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 40 percent of 65 and older adults take life with 5-9 pills a day.

I take so many daily vitamins now, I’m thinking about giving away the mineral rights to my body in my will!

As senior prescribed-drug use increases in the U.S., so do related risks. Pharmacists and healthcare providers can and do make errors. Patients become confused by having to juggle too many medications.

High costs of meds sometimes force seniors to forgo them, and how many of us hold onto old prescription bottles when they should be thrown out?

Compounding (pun intended) the problem with pharmaceuticals is forgetfulness — and the more serious problem of dementia. Some drugs’ side effects even exacerbate a senior’s already confused condition.

The good news?  Medical journals agree that 90 percent of these incidents could be preventable if prescription dosages were more clearly spelled out, and family and friends regularly monitor their loved ones’ use of drugs.

As always, this issue hits close to home.

Someone told a Valley senior about a new pill for arthritis that was really working. Trying to be helpful, this person suggested this senior “try a few.”  

The senior, suffering with what she believed was arthritis, said she would first ask her doctor, who told her she shouldn’t take any medicine until after she was finished with physical therapy. 

Either she didn’t listen to her doctor, forgot what was said or just made a bad decision. She took the three pills over three days.  They put her on her deathbed. 

She prayed that if she lived through the night she would never take anyone else’s medicine. Sounds like someone upstairs made a house call.

If you now think twice about medications, this “tycoon” has accomplished her goal — again.

Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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