Drug changes could be painful for your residents

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

It is indeed the rare person who enjoys a long life that is pain-free.

For many of us aging mortals, physical suffering tends to be a regular traveling companion. There are the usual aches and pains, of course. But many older adults must also deal with things like musculoskeletal disorders, arthritis, nerve damage, headaches, rehab challenges and post-surgical miseries, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for our oldest citizens — your residents — to get the pain relief they seek. And that challenge is likely to get worse before it gets better.

The Senate and House recently passed legislation that targets opioid abuse, which has become a serious health problem. Representatives from both chambers will be meeting shortly in an attempt to align the measures, which both include new access limits.

This follows Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines that call for more careful monitoring. Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reclassified some opioid formulations, which is creating new hurdles.

Collectively, these measures are making it more difficult for physicians to prescribe many of the medications your residents count on for pain relief. That is to say nothing of the related challenges of delivering and storing those meds.

To be sure, there is no bad guy to single out here. Many of the changes are coming in response to a growing crisis involving medications used to treat pain. The CDC estimates that nearly 30,000 people die from opioid-related overdoses each year. It's also well known that painkillers can be highly addictive.

But as we've seen too often, good intentions can lead to unintended results.

We certainly do not want more people becoming addicted to pain killers because they are readily available. Nor do we want our oldest and frailest members to be in preventable agony.

But if a scalpel is the tool that's needed, the available options seem to look more like sledgehammers.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.

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