What Is Polypharmacy and How Does It Affect Seniors?

Polypharmacy is a subject and a term many people are unfamiliar with. However, its clinical ramifications, especially for seniors, can be significant.

I’ll never forget when I personally became familiar with that term. I was studying for my Nursing Home Administrators License and found a reference to it in the “red Townsend book” (that’s a very popular book for Administrators in Training).

I had an epiphany at the time and mistakenly thought that only hypochondriacs and valetudinarians were engaged in “polypharmacy.”

I later learned that this belief was a myopic distortion of a potentially significant problem that doesn’t necessarily begin with, or stem from, hypochondria.

So what exactly is Polypharmacy?

Polypharmacy is the use of four or more medications by a patient, generally adults aged over 65 years. Polypharmacy is most common in the elderly, affecting about 40% of older adults living in their own homes.

The truth is, Polypharmacy is not always bad, but it is bad in many instances, often being more harmful than helpful or presenting too much risk for too little benefit.

Healthcare professionals will tell you that too many medications will often cause adverse reactions when one reacts negatively to the other.

Adverse reaction to drugs is never a good thing, so medications, especially when seniors rely on multiple pills for different ailments, must be monitored at all times This is especially true given the statistics which show that Polypharmacy can be associated with decreased cognition and quality of life.

In fact, The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists warns that: “Medication-related problems are estimated to be one of the top five causes of death in that (65 years and older) age group, and one of the leading causes of confusion, depression, falls, disability, and loss of independence.”

At Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we are extremely vigilant with respect to the medications we provide, to always ensure that they are directly commensurate with the doctors orders and we are extremely mindful of any and all reactions (adverse, or otherwise) of our patients to the drugs they need to be on.

Medication is designed to promote and support well being and healing and never to detract from it.

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