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  • Later Years Support

A pill for every ill? Over-medication in your later years.

Do you take more than a few medications? Have you been taking some for many years in the same way? Do you remember what you take all of them for?

When a person is in their later years, their body changes in so many ways. The way the older person's internal processes work also changes. This means the way the chemicals in medications interact in an older person's body can mean medications are taken up faster or slower, or they have greater interactions with each other. This can lead to serious side effects, or at least effects that are unwanted. Sometimes we start taking medications in our 50s and are still on the same ones and the same dose in our 80s. We need to think about the value and need for some long term preventative medications when we are in the very later years. Perhaps the risks of taking it are greater than the intended outcome.

Over-medication is about too much of a medication for the value it produces. Polypharmacy is about having many medications so that their chances of interaction are higher and the impact of any one medication is compromised. Research has been conducted all over the world about these problems, and consistently found that people in their later years need their medications reviewed each year to ensure they are getting the best combination of medications for their needs. In Australia, via Macquarie Uni, studies in residential aged care found over 45% of residents had more than 10 medications. In the UK, a similar review process has started for their elderly population in their NHS. Their trials of the programme were shown to reduce medicines waste, improve efficiency and provide better health outcomes. But most importantly, it was found that a resident’s quality of life could be greatly improved because people would have fewer hospital admissions. They also found people felt like eating more, didn't have to call the ambulance as often, and saved money.

Whether you are in your community home, and even if you are not receiving other home care services, you can ask your pharmacist to perform a medication management review. If you are in residential aged care, it is at the request of your doctor. The review is funded by the Government so the pharmacist and the Doctor receive support for the time it takes. For you, there is no cost.

We all need to take control of what is happening to us, in our health and our lives. One of the most important aspects is to ask if you need to continue to take the medication you're on. The answer might be that you should, but if we never ask, we never have the choice to make a difference. (Statistics taken from article by Shinasa Enayeth, HelloCare, 20.3.18.)

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