The Aging Parent-Multiple Medication Conundrum

pillsThe intersection of elderly parents and multiple medications continues to be a conundrum for many adult children. It certainly is for my family! Two recent Washington Post articles about medication issues may be useful for the children or aging adults to read and then share with one another.

In Older Patients Sometimes Need to Get Off of Their Meds, but It Can Be a Struggle, physician Ravi Parikh writes about evaluating medications with the aim of de-prescribing some of the medicines that people take. He describes the struggles that can arise when patients hesitate to go off medications that they have been taking for years, because their sense is that their medications are working. People are reluctant to associate physical problems with medications that they already take, so when new symptoms arise, many people seek a prescription for that problem and are less inclined to examine whether or not the new problem might be caused by medications they already take.

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Physicians and patients…feel good about using a medication to treat a side effect. But it may be better to stop using the medicine that cause the problem in the first place.

In America’s Other Drug Problem: Giving the Elderly Too Many Prescriptions, a Kaiser Health News article that appeared in the Washington Post, author Anna Gorman describes the health challenges that occur for people taking too many medications. When too much is prescribed the situation is called polypharmacy. Often polypharmacy occurs when older adults take medications for chronic conditions, prescribed by a range of specialists, but with little communication among the physicians. Gorman describes pharmacist Dominick Bailey with pharmacy and geriatrics training, who works at Santa Monica Hospital, a part of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Bailey’s job is to look over medications, consider drug interactions, and help patients leave the hospital with a solid understanding of what medications they are taking and why.

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An increasing number of elderly patients nationwide are on multiple medications to treat chronic diseases, raising their chances of dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects. Often the drugs are prescribed by different specialists who don’t communicate with each other. If those patients are hospitalized, doctors making the rounds add to the list — and some of the drugs they prescribe may be unnecessary or unsuitable.

With so many aging adults on multiple medications from multiple physicians, recognizing the necessity to figure out solutions is important yet often difficult, especially when a new problem surfaces and just might be caused by two medicines interacting. As the population ages, the need for professionals in every community with the skills that Dominick Bailey possesses will be key to the health and welfare of elder adults.

3 thoughts on “The Aging Parent-Multiple Medication Conundrum

  1. This is a great post, very much to the point. The over medicating of elderly people is a major issue, believing medications can replace healthy life style or other life improvements. It is a major issue in Europe as well.


  2. This is a tricky area. Multiple medications can cause side effects, but giving up on them can make the ailment even worse. Secondly, many seniors are so dependent on their medications that they are unlikely to let go. Finally, the subjectivity of the case (different seniors experience different symptoms) makes it difficult to prescribe a one-best medication approach for all seniors. However, coordination between physicians working on the same patient is absolutely necessary.


    • Yes, so much coordination is required. I am working on a medication issue right now, because what worked for a person at one age is less less effective at another. Keeping focused is the most important thing!


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