Article of the Week on "Risky Medications"

lharrelsonLynn Harrelson, R.Ph., FASCP, Senior Care Pharmacist
8302 Cheshire Way
Louisville, Kentucky  40222
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Kentucky chapter

Risky Medications

Everyone who cares for todays’ seniors will eventually deal with the problems created by the medications that the seniors use. Some seniors have other watchful eyes on the medication they use. The general public is generally unaware that since Medicare was initiated in the mid-sixties that pharmacists have been federally mandated to review the medications of all Medicare patients residing in nursing homes or long term care facilities (LTCFs) across the country. Specially trained pharmacists review the use of each patient’s medications, how they are responding, train facility staff on proper dosing of medications, side-effect  monitoring and documenting and they make recommendations to the prescriber for changes in orders or labs.

The role of the long term care pharmacist is extremely important in maximizing the benefits of the medicines that are used while avoiding or minimizing the risks from those same medicines. Today there are other pharmacists who provide that same detailed review and consults for seniors who continue to live independently in their community, in their home, at a retirement center or assisted living facility.

Today more seniors are taking increasing numbers of medications, these medications are more chemically complex. Seniors often use more than one physician and as they age, have many more medical conditions.  Seniors also take non-prescription medications that a few years back required a prescription, counseling to assure better use and greater understanding of the side effects that could develop.

Studies have shown that if a senior takes 2 medications, the chances of a medication related problem is 6%, if they take 5, it’s 50%.  If a senior takes more than eight medications, there is a 100% chance that they will experience a medication related problem.  Eight (8) or more medications, that list of medications includes any prescription, non-prescription, over the counters, supplements, and nutritionals.

Although a medicine can make you feel better and maintain your health, we must be aware that all medicines have both benefits and risks. You are encouraged to visit my website for more details on medications related problems in the today’s seniors.  Our first step in addressing this problematic issue is greater awareness of the problem.

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