The Elderly and Polypharmacy


Unfortunately, as we all age our bodies start to grow old with us.  Arthritis kicks in, consitpation, diarrhea, our hearts get worn, our kidneys get tired, we forget important things.  In this day and age there seems to be a medication for everything and a commercial for all of them.  Our doctors don’t seem hesitant to prescribe a battery of medications for our high blood pressure and cholesterol, for our bloating, and for our digestive issues.  Those medications cause your hands to shake and you have dry mouth?  Here’s another medication for your side effects.  Can’t remember to take all those meds, don’t worry, you’ll get sent home with a giant med box and another medication for memory.  Because as we age our health seems to worsen, the elderly are at particular risk for not only polypharmacy, but also more vulnerable to the associated risks that come along with polypharmacy. 

As we age, we seem to lose all the important mechanisms we need for medication regulation.  We increase our subcutaneous fat and decrease our lean muscle mass, therefore increasing our risk of toxicity with a drug.  Our blood protein, albumin, which is important to many medications as they bind with albumin, drops.  This results in a higher concentration of drug floating freely in the blood.  This also increases our risk of toxicity.

Here is a very informative power point presentation about polypharmacy and the elderly, check it out.


11 Responses to “The Elderly and Polypharmacy”

  1. the elderly are at such a high risk of having adverse effects from their medications due to the shear amount of medications that most of them take. polypharmacy in the elderly definitely needs to be taken seriously by all those who are involved. the elderly (those over 65 yrs.) make up approximately 13% of the population, however they use 30% of the prescriptions written. on average they also take 4-5 prescription medications and 2 OTC (over-the-counter) medications. those are astounding figures if you really think about it.

  2. jen07aggies Says:

    wow- those are really interesting facts. that just shows again how important it is for everyone to have a list of the medications they are taking and to bring it to ANY appointment that you have dealing with your health….the hospital, your primary care/family doctor, dentist, eye doctor, etc. even tho those are all different scopes of medicine, they all can prescribe meds and thus increases the risk of polypharmacy.

  3. When my 93 yr. old mother-in-law left the hospital after a fairly serious illness, she left with 16 prescriptions. Needless to say, she not only couldn’t keep them straight, she also could not afford them. It took months to get her off all the same types of drugs. She is now 95 yrs. old and taking 3 medications. One for arthritis, one for bladder control and a sleeping aid. Her quality of life is so much better…even at 95.

  4. Bobbie Dlabaj Says:

    I am 65 years old and the slide presentation of polypharmacy was extremely helpful and easy to follow. It made me understand better the different aspects of polypharmacy. I also printed out the medication list template so I could better organize my medications and my physicians could see exactly what I take on a daily basis.

  5. Bobbie,
    I’m so glad to hear that slide show was helpful. I really liked the templates it had, as well. Those are really easy to use and very helpful!

  6. Thats some good ol advise. I put my meds in a weekly box every Sunday and to tell you the truth I can’t remember the mg doses of some of them. I just take them because i was told to by my doctor. I will be writing down my medications and dosages right away and starting to remember them too.

  7. Tiffany Kempland Says:

    my dad takes several prescriptions medications and he doesn’t like having those pill containers all out on his bathroom counter so he puts them in little unlabeled jars. this scares me because if i found him unconscious or something i wouldn’t be able to tell the paramedics what he takes.

    he’s really stubborn though and won’t listen to me or my mom about this.

  8. AustinPharmer Says:

    This section makes me think of Celebrex…’nuff said.

    Also makes me think of the old adage “Take 2 of these and call me in the morning.” Sadly, I think that there is not enough education for the elderly and some people (young and old) are in the mindset that it is easy to pop something in your mouth and you’ll be fine. If it were not this simple to “make things better” polypharmacy would not be as large of a problem.

  9. It really is scary how many medications some elderly people are prescribed. They are often going to several different doctors, and may be getting prescribed medication from a hospital as well. There is also a possible decline in cognition as a person gets older, which adds to the danger.

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