With over 1/3 of all 60-year-olds taking five or more prescription medications, it’s no wonder that problems are occurring from overmedication. Polypharmacy, defined as “…when an adverse drug effect is misinterpreted as a new medical problem – leading to the prescribing of more medication to treat the initial drug-induced symptom,” can lead to a variety of additional health risks or worsening of existing health conditions. It’s advised that seniors and their caregivers work together on a plan of de-prescribing medications. The following steps can help:
- Put together a list of all meds being taken, including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamin or herbal supplements, and share with the senior’s doctor and pharmacist.
- Request an assessment of both the medications themselves and dosage quantities. Oftentimes, negative side effects occur from receiving too high a dose of a drug, and just reducing the amount prescribed can be effective.
- Include in the senior’s medication review a conversation with the doctor about any potential lifestyle changes that should be made as an alternative to prescriptions – such as improving diet and engaging in exercise plans to reduce blood pressure and risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Weigh the benefits of medications. As an example, statin and blood pressure medications are effective in as few as three out of 100 patients taking them for over five to ten years in those who have never experienced a stroke or heart attack. It’s a personal decision to determine whether preventative measures are worth any benefits that may be achieved.
- Likewise, weigh the risks. All medications come with potential side effects and risks. Talk with the senior’s doctor about whether the risks outweigh the health benefits that come from taking each medication.
- Pay particular attention to sedatives. According to Tasha Woodall, associate director of pharmacotherapy in geriatrics at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, “A lot of those medications continue to be appropriate for somebody’s entire life. But the cumulative effect of having someone on three, four, or five psychotropic medications that can impact their brain can spell out a recipe for disaster in terms of falling and cognitive decline.”
Contact Advanced Home Health Care for additional strategies for de-prescribing medications and improving quality of life for seniors, and to request a free in-home consultation to learn how our caregivers can assist in a variety of ways to improve the health and wellbeing of seniors at home. Some of the many ways we can help include:
- Medication reminders to ensure meds are taken exactly as prescribed
- Transportation to doctors’ appointments
- Running errands, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
- Companionship and an extra set of eyes to catch any changes in condition and report them immediately
- And many others
Contact us online or call us at 800.791.7785 or 319.753.6270 in Burlington and 319.524.2144 in Keokuk any time to learn more! We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and share more about our in-home care in Burlington and the surrounding communities.