As we get older, we often manage a greater number of daily medications. In fact, 44 percent of men and 57 percent of women older than 65 take five or more medications per week. Many of these medications are essential. Some, such as supplements and herbal products, are taken voluntarily. Others are over-the-counter medicines taken as-needed, to treat a headache or stomach upset. Without a doubt, many people — especially seniors — require a complex regimen of medications to stay healthy. This use of multiple prescriptions at the same time is known as polypharmacy. While often unavoidable, in some cases taking many different medications can lead to even new health problems.
Difficulty in keeping track of medications only gets worse when seniors need to take multiple pills multiple times a day. Taking a higher number of medications also raises the risk of having an adverse drug reaction. While having a home caregiver can help seniors keep track of prescriptions, the risks of negative reactions remain a serious concern.
Adverse Drug Reactions Are Common and Serious
Metabolic changes as seniors age put them at a higher risk for adverse drug reactions. About a third of non-bedridden seniors suffer an adverse drug reaction each year. Within that group, 29 percent require a doctor’s care or even a trip to the hospital. Given that seniors usually take multiple prescriptions, the chances of two drugs interacting is even higher.
The greatest risk factor for an adverse drug reaction is the number of medications a patient takes. Reactions with over-the-counter medicines are a common problem. Of course, many health issues necessitate taking multiple medications. The problem is when these medications begin to interact negatively. Having a home caregiver in the house to monitor symptoms can provide an additional layer of security against a serious drug reaction. However, it is obviously preferable to prevent these reactions from happening in the first place.
The Symptoms of a Reaction Can Be Difficult to Identify
Signs of polypharmacy can masquerade as normal signs of aging. These varied symptoms can include tiredness, bathroom problems, loss of appetite, confusion, depression, weakness, tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and dizziness. With such a broad spectrum of potential warning signs, the effects of polypharmacy can be difficult to identify.
Overprescribing can also lead to a phenomenon known as “prescribing cascades” When a drug reaction creates new symptoms, these can sometimes be interpreted as a new disease. If a physician prescribes more medication to treat those symptoms, the reactions may worsen even further. This makes it especially important to have someone carefully monitoring symptoms after a new drug is introduced.
Monitor Symptoms And Discuss Other Options
The issue of overprescription in America is a serious one. Nearly half of all older adults are taking one or more medications that they don’t actually need. Talk to your doctor about exploring options for reducing the number of prescriptions you take. In some cases, a single drug may achieve the same results as a combination of other medicines. Medications that only require two applications a day also pose less risk for accidental overdose than medications requiring three or more. Inquiring about non-drug treatment options can also reduce the potential for polypharmacy.
Eliminating non-essential or obsolete medications from your daily regimen can prevent future problems. However, preventative measures can only go so far. Having a family member or caregiver in the house will help give seniors peace of mind. When starting a new prescription,it’s important to always be on the lookout for warning signs. Even taking a simple over-the-counter painkiller can trigger an adverse drug reaction. A home caretaker can keep a close eye on seniors and monitor any side-effects that a new prescription might cause. Armed with information, seniors can help their doctors give them the best treatment possible.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.