Safely Managing Pain for Aging Well
By Ully Sedtal, VISTA Leader
About three quarters of older adults live with chronic pain1 making everyday activities such as grocery shopping and meal preparation difficult or overwhelming. To help manage chronic pain, doctors might prescribe opioids. However, taking opioids can have serious side effects for older adults such as an increased risk of falling.
The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project showed the rate of opioid-related hospitalizations for older adults increased 34 percent2 between 2010 and 2015. Older adults prescribed opioids are four to five times more likely to experience a fall than their peers taking over-the-counter medications for pain-relief3. There is a variety of opioid medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Fentanyl and Morphine that can have different side effects and affect balance and coordination. Talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and any concerns you might have to help you decide what medications are right for you.
One way to reduce possible adverse side effects of opioid use is to have a complete medication review. A medication review can help identify if there might be contraindications between the items you are taking. This is useful if you see multiple health care providers who might not be in direct communication with each other or if you take multiple prescriptions, medications or supplements. To get a medication review, take a detailed list of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements to a nurse or pharmacist.
Area Agencies on Aging provide services and supports for people 60 and older, their family members and caregivers. Some Area Agencies on Aging provide medication review services and other community health and wellness programs. To find out if your local Area Agency on Aging provides medication review services, call 800-252-9240.
If you are concerned you or a loved one might have a substance use issue, the Texas Health and Human Services Outreach, Screening, Assessment and Referral Centers can help. Located in the 11 local mental health authorities of Texas, OSAR centers provide screenings and assessments, referrals to treatment providers, recovery support services and intervention, and prevention programs. To find an OSAR center, call 877-541-7905.
Healthy aging is viable for many Texans with the right information, resources and supports. Making informed decisions about pain management can allow more older adults to live and age well while reaching their fullest potential.