Entries in Polypharmacy (1)


Elders Confused By Too Many Medications

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Many elderly Americans take various types of pills every day, and remembering which pill combats which ailment, or the proper dosages, can become trying.

"There are a lot of patients who see multiple specialists, and nobody is coordinating their care," said Barbara Paris, director of geriatrics at Maimonides Medical Center. "And they get into dangerous situations where the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing."

Nearly one-third of Americans ages 57-85 take at least five prescription drugs, while people with chronic illnesses may take more than 20. Sixty-eight percent of Americans are also taking over-the-counter medicines or supplements, according to a 2008 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These combinations may lead to dangerous and often unmonitored interactions.

"There are over 100,000 deaths per year related to polypharmacy and medication misuse and adverse reactions, which brings it to one of the leading causes of death in this country," Paris said.

Seniors can experience polypharmacy not only when they are prescribed numerous medications, but also when they start taking the medications of other family members as well.

Family members can watch for signs of polypharmacy at home, according to ABC's chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. These signs can include weight loss, depression, or lack of interest in normal activities.

Also, there are forms an elderly patient can fill out, which will allow family members to discuss the care of their loved ones with the doctor. Filling out HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release forms beforehand can assure you'll be included in conversations about your loved one's care, Besser said.

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