Overmedication is a common issue among elders and can cause serious health problems. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at metabolizing drugs. That is why doctors prescribe medications at lower doses to the elderly. However, a lot of times, adults medicate themselves or take medicines as given by their family members without any proper diagnosis and end up getting overmedicated. Therefore, if you have elders at home who are on regular medications, it is advised to evaluate the signs of overmedication in elders for their safety. Here is the list of 9 signs that you need to consider and the risk factors associated with overmedication in the elderly. Let’s start with the risk factors first: 

Risk factors for overmedication in the elderly


The elders in our house often have multiple chronic conditions that require them to be on various medications at once, which is referred to as polypharmacy.  Consuming a variety of medications at once can be quite risky, as the drugs can interact with each other or cause unwanted side effects. Therefore, it is important to have regular assistance from a doctor to monitor the medication routine. 

Age-related physiological changes:  

As people get older, the changes in their bodies can affect medication absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination. Moreover,  the basic functioning organs, such as the kidney and liver, may not be able to extend the life span of the drug in your system, as well as increase the likelihood of drug accumulation and toxicity. 

Medication Escalation:

Sometimes, doctors misunderstand the side effects as a new medical problem. So, they prescribe more medications to treat it. This creates a cycle where a person ends up taking too many drugs, leaving them with more health conditions than before. For example, there was a woman in Washington who got hospitalized for an asthma attack but was then given too many medications due to high blood pressure and other side effects.

Signs of overmedication in the elderly: 


Over-consumption of drugs can cause drowsiness or sedation. Therefore, if an elderly person at your house is unusually tired or sleepy, it could be a sign of overmedication in the elderly


Another symptom of medication overload is brain fog, which occurs due to a disruption in neurotransmitter balance. In elderly people, it is often misunderstood as age-related cognitive decline. Therefore, if you see an elder in your family forgetting things, don’t overlook it and make sure that they are not getting overmedicated. 


Some medications on the market have the potential to impair balance and coordination, which puts older people at higher risk of falling.  Since drugs that induce lightheadedness or dizziness can exacerbate this symptom, frequent falls may be an indication of overmedication.

Changes in Appetite or Weight: 

Weight loss can result from overmedication’s impact on appetite. Unexpected weight loss or gain should be considered, as it may be a sign of medication side effects on the digestive system or metabolism.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms: 

Constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are examples of digestive problems that can be caused by overmedication and are mostly referred to as pharmaceutical side effects. The cause behind these symptoms is drug interference with the gastrointestinal tract’s regular function.

Mood Changes: 

Depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings can all result from overmedication.  Medication that alters brain chemistry can cause changes in emotional health, so any noticeable mood changes should be discussed with a healthcare professional. 

Weakness or muscle pain: 

Certain medications can cause muscle stiffness, soreness, or weakness, impairing daily movement. Overconsumption of these medications can cause disruptions in metabolism or muscle contraction.


Low blood pressure from overmedication can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when standing up or changing positions.  This symptom may be exacerbated by medications that interfere with fluid balance or cardiovascular function.

Excessive medication use: 

Keeping track of medication usage is essential. If an elderly person consistently takes more medication than prescribed or seeks additional prescriptions from multiple doctors, it may indicate overmedication. This behaviour can lead to drug interactions, adverse effects, and other complications.

Now that you have got some information about the signs of overmedication, here is how you can prevent it: 

Preventative measures for overmedication in the elderly:

Comprehensive Medication Review: 

It is important to schedule a regular appointment with a healthcare professional for medication review. This involves reviewing all the medications a patient takes, including prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements, to assess their appropriateness, effectiveness, and potential for adverse effects. Moreover, through this, you can also avoid Polypharmacy, which can occur due to the consumption of various medications at the same time. 

Regular Monitoring: 

Healthcare providers should monitor older adults regularly for signs of medication-related adverse effects, including cognitive impairment, confusion, falls, and changes in functional status. These routine check-ups can help you identify the overmedication side effects at earlier stages and adjust medications accordingly.  


Educating older adults and their families about the importance of elderly medication management is essential. Patients should understand their medications, including their purpose, proper dosage, potential side effects, and the importance of adherence. 


Deprescribing involves carefully discontinuing medications that are no longer necessary, ineffective, or potentially harmful. Healthcare providers should consider deprescribing as a proactive approach to reducing the medication burden in older adults, especially for medications with limited benefit or high risk of adverse effects.

Customized Care Plans: 

When it comes to medical prescriptions for elders, it is important to consider a few things, such as comorbidities, functional status, cognitive function, and life expectancy. Moreover, coordination among healthcare professionals, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, caretakers, and other healthcare team members, is important to create a proper medication routine that aligns with their body requirements.  

Evidence-Based Guidelines: 

Healthcare providers should adhere to evidence-based guidelines and best practices for prescribing medications in older adults. Guidelines such as the Beers Criteria and STOPP/START Criteria provide recommendations for identifying potentially inappropriate medications and optimizing prescribing in older adults. 

In a nutshell: 

By going through these signs of overmedication in the elderly, you can avoid the health risks and side effects associated with this condition. You can always hire a caretaker or a companion home health care for expert monitoring.  For that, reach out to Family Ties Home Care, the best in the industry, to cater to all the personalized requirements of the elderly at your home.