By: Joan Carmen T. Aranda @nursesheart
“Did you know that up to half of the older people do not take medications as prescribed by their doctor?”
Derived from an Ancient Greek term, “poly” means many. According to Merriam Webster, polypharmacy means the administration of multiple medicines in the treatment of diseases.
Medicines are the most common dependent intervention for the elderly. Without medicines, treatment will not be as effective or eventually their condition might worsen.
Polypharmacy is considered among elderly people if the treatment uses 5 or more medications per individual. They use more medications than young people because of their risk for chronic medical disorder, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or arthritis. Among people who are age 65 years or older, 90% take at least 1 drug per week, more than 40% take at least 5 different drugs per week, and 12% take 10 or more drugs per week. Thus, medicines are as expensive because the elderly needs compliance to their medications throughout their lives.
Because of aging, the medicines that older people take stay longer in their body system. Thus, it takes longer to excrete them and may cause various side effects that they can exhibit. Due to this, older people are given medicines at lower doses or perhaps fewer daily doses.
The effects of the medicines in older people are usually stronger than among younger people. For example, antihypertensive medicines such as Metoprolol is used to lower blood pressure, if an elderly will take it the condition of their body would dramatically decrease the blood pressure at large than in younger people. The lower the blood pressure causes many side effects such as dizziness, light-headedness, and falls. Older people who have such side effects should discuss them with their doctor. It is also important to take the prescribed dosage of their medications.
If older people find it difficult to manage their medications, they should communicate it to their healthcare providers, At Boundless Care, Inc., ensuring safe medication administration is vital!
There are many ways that healthcare providers can assist the older people to their medication management that will prevent problems from occurring and promote health:
Know about the drugs and disorders being treated:
- Keep a list of all medicines being taken, conventional or alternative medicines.
- Know the indication of the medicine and its effects.
- Know the side effects and what to do if it occurs.
- Know the time it should be taken, does it have to be taken with food or not, can it be taken together with other medicines, and when to stop taking it.
- Learn what to do if a dose is missed.
- Write down information about how to take the drug or ask the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to write it down (because such information can easily be forgotten).
- Keep a list of all disorders present.
Use drugs correctly:
- Take drugs as instructed.
- Use memory aids, such as a medication organizer, to take drugs as instructed.
- Before stopping a drug, consult the doctor about any problems.
- Discard any unused drug from a previous prescription, unless instructed not to do so.
- When discarding a drug, follow the disposal instructions on the label, review the information at the Food and Drug Administration’s web site, take drugs to an authorized disposal center (possibly at a pharmacy or local law enforcement site), or mix the drug with kitty litter or coffee grounds, tightly wrap in plastic or a similar material, place in a sealable or watertight container or bag, and discard in the trash.
- Do not take another person’s drug, even if that person’s problem seems similar.
Check the expiration date on drugs, and do not use the drug if it has expired.
Work closely with the doctor and pharmacist:
- Get all prescriptions from the same pharmacy, preferably one that provides comprehensive services (including checking for possible drug interactions) and that maintains a complete drug profile for each person.
- Bring all drugs being taken to medical appointments if requested to do so.
- Periodically discuss the list of drugs being taken and the list of disorders with the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to make sure the drugs are correct and should be continued. For example, people can test themselves by telling their doctor how they are supposed to take all drugs and asking whether what they have said is correct.
- Review the list of drugs with the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist every time any drug is changed (doctors and pharmacists can check for interactions between drugs).
- Make sure the doctor and pharmacist know about all over-the-counter drugs and supplements being taken, including vitamins, minerals, and medicinal herbs.
- Consult the doctor before taking any new drugs, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
- Report to the doctor or pharmacist any symptoms that might be related to the use of a drug (such as new or unexpected symptoms).
- If the schedule of taking drugs is too complex to follow, ask the doctor about simplifying it.
- If seeing more than one doctor, make sure each doctor knows all the drugs being taken.
- Ask the pharmacist to print the label in large print, and check to make sure it can be read.
- Ask the pharmacist to package the drug in containers that are easy to hold and to open.
Rusein, J. M., Linnebur, S. (2017). Aging and Drugs. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues/aging-and-drugs/aging-and-drugs