Deprescribing Gains Interest

Just as many households have taken the added time at home to declutter and purge unnecessary possessions, making our living spaces more organized, safe, and enjoyable, older adults may also benefit from exploring deprescribing with their doctors. What medications may be no longer necessary to bring better balance to your health.  

According to a recent New York Times Health report, many seniors are taking more medications than they need and geriatric experts are increasingly “deprescribing” drugs that may no longer be of significant benefit or are causing harm.  Because older adults metabolize medications differently, it’s important to review prescription medications at least once a year.  A geriatrician may be best suited to evaluating the benefits and risks of drugs, especially when seniors are taking multiple medications. 

Polypharmacy – taking multiple drugs at the same time for one or more health conditions, can create problems for older adults that can include dangerous interactions, delirium, confusion, or unsteadiness that can lead to falls.  Despite the risks, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than half of adults 65 and older report taking four or more prescription drugs. 

But because taking multiple drugs is associated with cognitive impairment, interactions, falls and hospitalization, more healthcare professionals are interested in whittling away at the number of prescriptions; especially ones that may cause more harm than good.   Certain medications, including some over-the-counter supplements, can be inappropriate for older patients because of adverse reactions.   

Older patients may not feel confident questioning their doctor about what medications may be unnecessary or risky for older adults.  Having a trusted family member or friend as an advocate present during office visits can help ensure seniors are getting the appropriate medication and not taking drugs that could lead to worsening health problems, poorer quality of life, or falls causing injury. Your advocate may also be more comfortable raising the issue of deprescribing.  

Learn more about optimizing medication use among older adults by following this link to the U.S. Deprescribing Network.  Long-term care providers, prescribers, and pharmacists can find out how to participate in the “Drive to Deprescribe” created by The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine here.   Visit the Canadian Deprescribing Network for more resources to eliminate the use of risky medication for seniors and gain access to safer drug and non-drug therapies. 

Members of The Oldish have access to our Medication Checklist in the Toolkit. Our checklist was reviewed by physicians and contains space for prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medications along with other types of remedies that individuals may choose to use that can cause interactions. Not only is it editable but it can be printed out or emailed to health care practitioners and family members who need to have the information handy. A membership to The Oldish is free but allows the creation of a password so that your information stays private.