Modern medicine is a marvel – it’s certainly one of the factors that has allowed human beings to develop new ideas and to flourish. The advent of hygiene helped us through the Dark Ages, literally. The discovery and understanding of germs decreased infant mortality rates. Penicillin nixed painful and often fatal infections. These discoveries, among many others, have helped us develop a complex medicinal treatment system which has saved countless lives. Medicine has even developed beyond survival and toward new goals of comfort, healing, and the extension of life. Today, it is prescribed for almost every thinkable ailment. But there comes a time to ask ourselves, “How much is too much?”
America is plagued by what some call an overtreatment epidemic, which particularly affects our most vulnerable – children, the disabled, and the elderly. Oftentimes, without the patient’s consent, potentially dangerous medications, such as antipsychotics and hypnotics, are prescribed, and since few would question the doctor’s orders, these patients could be taking pills they don’t need. No medication is without side effects, and it is usually in the patient’s best interest to be able to make an educated decision. A healthy dose of skepticism could be the right prescription: Is a blood pressure medication right for me if it causes me to faint? Do I really need to take steroids to control my asthma? Is it worth it to take a prescription just because it negates the serious side effects of another?
According to The New York Times, over 40 percent of people aged 65 and up take five or more medications, and, every year, nearly one-third of that percentage experiences a “serious adverse effect.” A panel of 11 geriatric care and pharmacology experts updated the Beers Criteria, guidelines whose purpose is to prevent or at least minimize drug-related catastrophes in senior citizens. The team commenced a review of more than 2,000 research studies of drugs prescribed for older adults and highlighted 53 potentially disastrous medications or classes of medication; with these figures in mind, The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society also published its own research on the subject in 2012.
The act of taking drugs itself can easily become overwhelming. Since it is frequently difficult to keep track of one’s medications, senior citizens are encouraged to utilize the Foundation for Health in Aging’s “drug and supplement diary” and to share the list with every health care provider they see. It is best to seek the expert advice of a doctor before making any long-term decisions that could affect your health.
If you are concerned for your well-being or the well-being of a loved one, consult the experts in geriatric care management. P&P Medicaid provides a full range of geriatric care management services to help individuals and their families make decisions about and oversee their long-term care needs. Please call P&P Medicaid Consulting, Inc. at (516) 541-4770 for more information.