The 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.
Penned by William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Chicago Chief of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, the short piece offers general aging advice in four categories:
Keeping our personal health records
Finding a doctor who is comfortable treating older patients
Dr. Dale is also the author of My Father’s Life and Death from Cancer, a description of his experiences during the last months of his father’s life. This article appeared in a 2011 edition of Medicine on the Midway, another Chicago alumni publication.
Given my dad’s summer hospitalizations due to medication interaction, I find this the most thought-provoking sentence in the report:
Though not every senior needs a geriatrician, their training often makes them the best equipped to respond when an older patient has multiple medical problems. Geriatricians have expertise in areas that general internists don’t, including the changes in cognitive ability, mood, gait, balance and continence, as well as the effects of drugs on older individuals.
A June 29, 2010 article, Preparing More Care for the Elderly, appeared in the New York Times. Written by Milt Freudenheim, who generally writes about the business aspects of health care, the piece describes how the country and our health care system can go about preparing for the huge number of people who are aging.
The most compelling part of the Times article came near the end when Fredenheim described the NICHE program at the New York University and the University of Alabamahospitals. NICHE stands for Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders; its mission is to make hospitals senior friendly. More than 300 hospitals are currently involved with the program, and visitors to the organization’s website can search for a participating institution in the NICHE Network.