It is a well-known fact that elderly patients take a lot of drugs. The truth of the matter is that older people take more medications than those younger than them due to aging issues and health problems. As a result, they are more susceptible to Polypharmacy – Which is the use of taking multiple medications.
When elderly patients take several drugs for their ailments, they are at risk. Not only do they have a higher risk of adverse reactions, but aging affects how a body processes medications. Additionally, elderly people are more likely to take prescription drugs inappropriately, such as:
- Taking drugs in the wrong way
- Not taking medications according to the directions—not taking it with a meal or with plenty of water
- Confusing their medications and mixing them up
Unfortunately, many patients over the age of 65 suffer from chronic conditions and are being prescribed more and more drugs to treat a wide variety of conditions. What’s scary is that people with several chronic conditions generally see different doctors and receive multiple medications. Some of these medications may treat the same symptoms, can interact with other drugs, and some can be unnecessary or ineffective.
Polypharmacy and Elderly Patients
When a patient is taking more drugs than he or she can handle, it is considered unnecessary drug use. Shockingly, taking more medications than what is needed is a common problem among seniors. However, it may be difficult for elderly patients—who are confused or suffering from dementia—to recognize that they are taking too many medications. Unfortunately, taking too many drugs or not taking them the right way can increase an elderly patient’s chance of suffering from a medication error.
How Pharmacists Can Help Prevent Polypharmacy in Elderly Patients
Typically, an elderly person will have all of his or her medications filled at the same pharmacy, so pharmacists can play a vital role in recognizing polypharmacy and pointing it out to patients’ doctors. While doctors should be aware of the medications that their patients are taking, pharmacists should also focus on preventing medication errors by reviewing the other medications patients are taking. This way a pharmacist can evaluate each patient’s medications to determine if polypharmacy is occurring.
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