I take prescriptions from patients, fill them and sell them. I have been a pharmacy technician for the past 5 years and I have never really considered what happens after one of my elderly patients leaves the pharmacy. Does the individual have help in the home? Who is dispensing the medication to the individual? Is the individual receiving medications from multiple medical professionals and from multiple pharmacies? And from the bigger picture, who is taking responsibility for the elderly population?
Polypharmacy, the use of multiple medications in one individual, is becoming a serious concern in the elderly. As the baby boomer generation begins to retire and as more and more individuals are prescribed multiple medications by multiple medical professionals, it is imperative to consider the dangers associated with polypharmacy. It isn’t a question of whether or not the elderly individual has difficulty remembering their medication but rather it’s a question of if the individual is being over prescribed, under educated and forgotten about. This isn’t a topic that is easy to read about; we are all surrounded by the elderly as our loved ones, friends, and co-workers, and as a society it is easier to turn a blind eye, as I have done for the past 5 years in the pharmaceutical world. Solutions need to be put in place so that our loved ones, friends and co-workers are able to succeed in later life.
An overview of interactions, dosages and frequency of medications is the basis of what education is necessary to protect the elderly. Education also needs to be given to medical professionals. Very few medical doctors and psychiatrists specialize in geriatrics and because of the retiring baby boomer generation, a greater need for proper training exists. Pharmaceutical interventions have very different effects on an individual that is 20 and an individual that is 70. Further research on side effects for different populations is important.
While aged individuals easily consume up to 12 types of drugs in a year on an average, these are often prescribed by different physicians. A network for these physicians would be beneficial to ensure best practices across the board. While malpractice insurance ensures that the individual is compensated for wrongful doing, no one is taking responsibility for the welfare of the individual. Someone needs to take responsibility.
Thank you to the editor, Heidi Enriquez and to RambergMediaImages for allowing us to use their photo.