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Medication: When is Less More?

When I moved by grandmother from Ft. Worth, Texas, to Hays into an assisted living facility, I discovered she was on fourteen different medications. Working with a care coordinator from my office, and my grandmother’s new doctor, we reduced my grandmother’s medication to four! Today, I want to share with you an article written by a care coordinator (Aimee Kroeger) from my office.

Have you ever looked at your medications and thought to yourself, “Wow, I take a lot of pills.” or “I’m not sure why I take this medication.” Well you are not alone. The use of multiple medications or more medications than are medically necessary is known as polypharmacy. In 2019, according to US Pharmacist, approximately 44% of men and 57% of women aged 65 and older, take five or more prescription and/or non-prescription medications per week. It is not uncommon for individuals who have chronic conditions such as respiratory illnesses, Type II Diabetes Mellitus and heart disease to take more medications to reduce long term risks of further complications. The aging population is at greatest risk for adverse events or harm that is caused by appropriate or inappropriate use of medication. As we age, our bodies react differently to medication, and our body is not able to metabolize or breakdown medication the same as when we were younger.

Negative consequences associated with polypharmacy are the increased risk of adverse drug events or reactions, drug to drug interactions and medication non-compliance. When multiple medications are taken together, they can cause increased confusion, falls with or without injury, urinary incontinence and decreased nutritional status. Here are 3 keys to reducing polypharmacy risk.

1.) Keep an accurate list of all medications including over the counter medications. This list should include

a.) The name of the medication.

b.) The dose of the medication.

c.) How often the medication is taken.

d.) The reason for taking the medication.

2.) Take your medication according to your physician’s instruction. Never stop taking a medication or reduce the dose without talking with your physician. This is most important if you have a medication that is causing unpleasant side effects. Notify your physician and make them aware of the unpleasant side effects so your medication may be reduced, stopped or switched to a different medication, but done so safely and with the guidance of a physician.

3.) Organization can improve medication compliance. Store your medications in a safe place. Never share your medications with others or save your medication for future use. Color coded pill boxes or blister packs can help with medication compliance.

Due to the need to treat various disease processes that develop with age, polypharmacy is common in the aging population. Discuss your medications with your physician and have each medication evaluated and balance the potential adverse effects against potential benefits.

I just wanted to finish up what effect reducing my grandmother’s medication had: she started eating again; she became much more active, socially and physically; and she re-engaged with life (and rekindle her love of the Dallas Cowboys—well my grandmother wasn’t quite perfect). Please consider Aimee’s great advice.


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