As healthcare develops remedies for every ailment and as life expectancy lengthens, one new byproduct for the modern senior is polypharmacy. Polypharmacy is when a person regularly takes 5 or more medications.
What are the risks?
• Higher risk of adverse drug effects
• Difficult to discover which drug is causing adverse effects
• Places a burden on older adults to remember when and how often to take prescribed medications
• A physician may hesitate to prescribe a new essential medication to a patient on five or more medications
• Falls are more common in people who are on multiple medicines
What can be done about it?
Work closely with the doctor and pharmacist to make sure that any medicines prescribed are necessary and are not causing more harm than good. Learn what each of the medicines is for and ask the doctor to write down or add it to the prescription so the information is available. Review the medicines with the doctor at least once a year. The pharmacist is a very useful source of information and advice about medicines. He or she may be able to answer questions about medicines.
When homebound seniors don’t know what the medicines are for or are having trouble taking them correctly, even after a doctor’s visit, ask for home health. A home health nurse can make multiple visits to teach medication regimens, implement ways to improve taking them correctly, as well as other strategies to ensure everything goes according to the doctor’s plan.