Elderly Patients at Risk for Prescription Drug Errors

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

According to statistics, two out of every five seniors do not take their medication as prescribed. This means they do not take the proper amounts, because of cost, bad side effects, or because they feel the medications do not really help them.

A survey was conducted by a research team at the Health Institute at Tufts-New England Medical Center. The survey was mailed to a random sample of 36,901 Medicare recipients. Nearly 18,000 responded.

46% of those who responded said that they took five or more prescriptions daily.

The survey also revealed that 25% said that they were forgoing taking the medication because of cost. Another 25% said they did not take their medications because the medicine made them feel worse, they didn’t think the medication was helping, or they were already taking too many medications.

Now, two more studies out of Brussels, Belgium, report that too many older people are being prescribed too many medications or the wrong drugs altogether. The reports were published in this week’s issue of the “Lancet” medical journal.

The authors blame the prescribing process, along with other patient and healthcare system factors for the inappropriate use of drugs in elderly patients.

This inappropriate drug use among older patients includes being prescribed drugs they don’t need, being underprescribed medications they do need, or being given inappropriate drugs.

One report suggests that drugs should be prescribed by a team of healthcare providers. The research team also suggests that pharmacists should become more involved in patient care, and they said that patients should be included in the prescribing process so that they have a clear idea of what medications they are being given, and why.

The second paper reported that older patients are at a high risk for having drug interactions. The research team suggested that this area for concern needs to be more fully documented.

If you are taking prescription drugs, there are some steps you can take to be better informed. First of all, ask your doctor about the recommended dose. If something is unclear, ask again. When you pick up your prescription drugs at the pharmacy, check that the instructions on the labels match what you have been told by your doctor. If there is any change, speak to your pharmacist and doctor and have them sort it out.

Ask your doctor why you are taking a certain medication, and how it will help you. If you have decided not to take the medication, tell your doctor. There may be alternative treatments you can try.

Get a list of possible side effects and drug interactions. If you feel you are at risk, ask about it. Again, there may be alternate medications that you can take that don’t pose the same risks. If any medication makes you feel worse, mention that, too. You may need to switch to another medication.

And don’t forget that eating a nutritious, balanced diet can go a long way to keeping you healthy and reduce your need for prescription drugs.