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February Ombudsman Report - Everything in Moderation

Rhode Island's Ombudsman Report - Everything in Moderation, or Maybe Not at All

By Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island's Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
Kathleen Heren

I recently came across an online article by Fran Kritz that was published in Verywell Health, a publication for Health Care Professionals. In the article, Kritz writes about over the counter medications that can be dangerous for seniors. We are a society that believes there is a pill for everything, or as I like it, a quick fix. What seniors don’t realize is when mixed with prescription medications, over the counter (OTC) medications could become lethal.

A review of two dozen studies found that people over the age of sixty take more OTC medications than younger adults. A review in the journal Cureus found older adults rely on OTC drugs for a number of reasons. OTC medications don’t require a physician visit and are less expensive than prescription medications with many elders also getting their information from television advertising and from their friends.

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OTC medications can have deleterious effects

The most common health reasons for taking OTC drugs are headache, abdominal pain, cough, joint pain, and fever, yet only about half tell their physicians. The top OTC drugs to take with caution are pain relievers. This is very concerning if the elder is on a blood thinner. Kidney damage also occurs with pain medication, as well as liver damage.

Benadryl alone is safe to keep on hand to treat a mild allergic reaction but should not be taken as a sleep aid. However, an example of an OTC drug that contains Benadryl is Advil PM. Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in Sudafed (decongestant). This compound is also in Benadryl Allergy plus Congestion, Vicks Sinus, Musinex, DayQuil, Tylenol Sinus and Advil Sinus Congestion.

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Meds and alcohol - a dangerous mix

While Milk of Magnesia and Magnesium Citrate are taken for constipation, these OTC medications can pose a risk for people with Kidney Disease. Oxytrol (Oxybutin) can be effective for women with over active bladders, yet produce side effects including dizziness, dry mouth and constipation. Think about the person who is already taking a prescribed medication to control water build up (Diuretic); a severe electrolyte imbalance could result.

In closing, remember to check with your physician or pharmacist before reaching for OTC medications, it is the sensible way to go. I am not even going to mention the use of alcohol with any medication. What some people call moderate drinking would most likely have you and I on the floor!

Stay safe and use caution when taking medications!


Kathleen Heren

Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman

Office of the RI State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

Alliance for Better Long Term Care Inc

422 Post Road Suite 204

Warwick, RI 02888


As the Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Ms. Heren shares her expertise by providing a monthly guest blog to Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. In these blogs, she delves into various issues and topics that she encounters in her role. The insights and opinions expressed in these blogs are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Attorney RJ Connelly III or any of the employees at Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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