I think my grandmother is abusing her prescription pain pills. She used to be very sharp, but now she slurs her words and forgets who I am. She has also been falling a lot. I love this woman dearly. What, if anything, can I do?
Not knowing how old your grandmother is and her general state of health, it is difficult for me to make many recommendations. SOME cognitive decline is to be expected as a normal part of aging. Forgetting what you came into the room for, blanking out on the names of the couple who has sat next to you in church for the past 15 years, needing a calculator to figure out what 15 times 6 is. I’m guilty of all the above!
Also, anyone who has NOT dealt with chronic pain has no idea how debilitating it is both physically and emotionally. It is asking a lot of people to deny themselves relief from what is a daily agony. Especially when that bottle of pills is sitting right there. Legal, bought and paid for and prescribed by a physician.
I’m assuming you’ve tried talking to your grandmother about your concerns without results. See if you can take her to her next appointment with the doctor who prescribes her pain meds. If she will let you, be in the examining room with her. Mention the slurred speech, the falls. Chances are your grandmother has not done this. She may pay more attention to the doctor than to you when it comes to regulating her medication.
If grandmother won’t allow this, you COULD get the doctor’s name off her pill bottle and call in with your concerns. HIPAA laws dictate that the doctor’s office can’t give you any information without a signed release from your grandmother. In fact they should neither confirm nor deny that she is even their patient. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell them what you’re seeing.
Working with a pain management specialist is also an option and you could ask the doctor to recommend one. Depending on what is causing your grandmother’s discomfort, there may be options besides medication. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but physical therapy can do a lot to reduce pain. People who hurt tend to stop moving and that just makes their pain worse.
This all puts you in a difficult position. Get grandma mad at you, or watch her break a hip and become immobilized for the rest of her life. Talk it over with your family and get them on board.