Aging Parents: One Size, Of Course, Doesn’t Fit All

We all know that one size doesn’t fit all. Does this relate to medications? Is the same dose of medicine as effective for a big man (the dose marked “For Adults” on the over-the-counter bottle) as a 90-year-old woman or a petite 50-year-old woman? Do elderly adults–whose physical bodies have often shrunk– require the same “adult dose” as when they were young adults?

I’ve often mulled over this question because my husband is big and I am rather petite. Taking the “adult dose”– 2 capsules of nonprescription pain killer works for him. I only need one. I have learned to take less.

Thus I read with special interest the Tuesday, January 26th, New York Times Science Section, “Vital Signs” column. It had a segment, “Tailoring Drug Doses to a Patient’s Size,” that to me is such common sense I’m surprised someone didn’t put it in major headlines years ago.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/health/26regimens.html?scp=1&sq=TailoringDrugDoses &st=cse.

Now we read that two doctors, one in Athens, Greece the other a professor of medicine at Tufts Medical School in Boston, have addressed this subject in a medical journal, The Lancet.

In my November 3 post, “Old Parents vs. Vacation Plans,” I write about my unplanned return to the US from Italy because my mother was supposedly dying. I was able to get her quickly to a geriatrician who ordered lab work and x’rays while we waited at the teaching hospital. It turned out, after looking at the results and the medication list I brought, that medications–too much and some unnecessary–caused the life-threatening problems.

From then on, whenever medications were mentioned, I respectfully called attention to Mother’s small size and low weight and asked about the minimum does she could take to get the necessary results.

 I discuss dosages with my physicians today. And I know they take my relatively smaller size into consideration, especially if an antibiotic is involved.

The “one size does’t fit all” concept seems very important when it involves aging parents’ medications. It has merit for adult children too. If we don’t stay healthy so we can be there for our parents–who will be?

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