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I polled 17 of 25 seniors who were visiting a local community center. The community center serves as a recreational facility for the elderly during the weekdays. Due to hippa and other confidentiality concerns I will not provide the name of the center or of the individuals I interviewed. Of the 17 interviewees eleven were female and six were male. The remaining eight either refused to be interviewed or was not capable of answering my questions. The interview criterion was 60 years old or older, taking four or more prescription medications. Use of OTC medications (vitamins, herbals, Tylenol, etc) was optional
Do you take four or more prescription medications?
Do you take herbs, vitamins, other dietary supplements, or over-the-counter medications?
Do you get your prescription filled at more than one pharmacy?
Is more than one doctor prescribing you medications?
Do you take your medications more than once a day?
Do you have trouble opening your medication bottles?
Do you have poor eyesight or hearing?
Do you live alone?
Do you have a hard time remembering to take your medications?
What is polypharmacy?
Polypharmacy is defined as the concurrent use of many different medications by the same person; as well as utilizing other medications to treat adverse reactions. This can result in a gradual accumulation of side effects. Problems may be increased by taking:
Dosages that are too high
Medications that are incorrectly prescribed or filled
Medications that interact with or duplicate the actions of other medications
Herbal supplements/remedies that interact with prescription medication
Polypharmacy can result in adverse drug actions, complicating therapy, increasing cost, and presents a challenge for healthcare providers. Unfortunately, the symptoms caused by polypharmacy can be confused with the normal aging process, these include: (Health Alliance 2007).
Tiredness, sleepiness, or decreased alertness
Constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence
Loss of appetite
Depression or lack of interest in your usual activities
Visual or auditory hallucinations
Anxiety or excitability
Decreased sexual behavior
The majority of interviewees take at least 2 OTCs every day. Of the Women 57% take 5 drugs, 44% of the men are taking 5 drugs. Older adults are on some prescription medicines. Many (79% of the women and 61% of the men) also take over the counter preparations such as herbs or vitamins, often because a relative suggests them. Since most of the interviewees (seventy-eight percent) indicated that a relative suggested the herb or vitamin; I informally polled all of the regarding this finding. Research shows overwhelmingly that people who use herbs, vitamins or other over-the-counter (OTC) products do so without talking to a physician or pharmacist first. Many drugs once obtainable only with Prescriptions are now OTC.
The use of multiple pharmacies by this group was very