“Poly-Pharmacy” in Elders
Medications play an important role in improving our health. Additionally, today’s medicines can greatly assist in preserving the independence of older adults. Prescriptive drug medications help control many common health conditions. Do you know any seniors experiencing health issues such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, chronic pain, and eye problems? More than likely, the answer is “yes”.
However, there are two sides to this story. With the success of modern medicines, our society has become reliant on pharmaceuticals to help us attain a longer and higher-quality life. This is good. But, medication management is also a major health challenge for older patients. Medications, or combinations of medications, can cause negative side effects, such as dizziness, depression, and digestive problems. Someone exhibiting confusion – due to medicine – might be mistaken for dementia. Drug side effects can raise the risk of falls, car accidents, and/or other injuries.
Pharmaceuticals are serious. Seniors need to take great care to get the most benefit, and ingest with care while following medicinal directions.
Managing medications in our later years can be challenging for several reasons. But, the biggest challenge is volume of consumption. Seniors take a lot of medications — which doctors and pharmacists now characterize as “poly-pharmacy.” Research has shown that elders on Medicare Part D (prescription drug plans) found that these seniors take an average of 4.5 drugs — and many take 10 or more. With each new drug, the chance of side effects and interactions increases. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to prescribe a new drug to treat the side effect of another!
Older, aging bodies process substances differently. As our digestive system, liver and kidneys begin to operate less efficiently, a drug can stay in the body longer, so we might need less of it. We might experience new side effects from a drug we’ve been taking for a long time.
Some drugs may be inappropriate for the old and elderly. A study published in 2020 noted that as many as one-third of seniors are taking medications that aren’t suitable for people their age.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164