Each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, adverse drug events cause more than 700,000 emergency department visits—and nearly 120,000 of those patients need to be hospitalized for further treatment.
The challenges are especially great for older patients, not only because they take more medications, but also because they are more likely to suffer from memory loss, confusion and decreased mental capacity. They’re also more likely to have someone else overseeing their care.
Drugs can be helpful in treating a variety of conditions. But when an elderly patient is seeing numerous physicians, is receiving medications from a number of pharmacies to cut back on costs, and needs to take different drugs in different quantities at different times during the day, overdosing, under-dosing and adverse side effects may be the result.
Geriatric patients and their caregivers can significantly decrease their chances of complications in a variety of ways:
- Use a medicine organizer. In addition, double-check medicine names and dosage information before putting inserting in the organizer.
- Keep an accurate list of all medications being used, both prescribed and not.
- Ensure pharmacy labels note the purpose of the medication.
- Talk to the pharmacist, and know the potential side effects/contraindications of all medicines.
- Keep a diary of dosages and reactions.
- Review the medicine list during every doctor’s visit.
- Keep prescriptions up-to-date, as running out could disrupt the overall medicine schedule.
- Continue prescribed medicines unless otherwise instructed by a doctor.
- Get a second opinion as needed.
Those in clinical treatment settings are advised to ask questions about the use of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, in addition to supplements. A knowledge of which medications are considered unsafe for the elderly also is important. The American Geriatrics Society offers the Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults, updated in 2015, for a start.
Pharmacy Times: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/managing-medications-for-elderly-patients
Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/MedicationSafety/Adult_AdverseDrugEvents.html
National Institutes of Health: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/takingmedicines/managingyourmedicines/01.html