You also hopefully know that older people are often prescribed medications that may be harmful, or no longer necessary.
So what can you do?
The answer is to request a careful medication review, in which all medications are reviewed for appropriateness and safety. This is part of a process called “deprescribing.’
Geriatricians are trained to do this, but if you can’t find a geriatrician, you should be able to get a decent review from the primary care doctor.
But before you go in, it pays to do a little homework on your own. That’s because the input of a patient and her caregivers is actually crucial to determining whether each medication is appropriate for her.
To help you complete this background preparation for a medication review, I’ve written this article for A Place for Mom:
The 5 Step Process You Can Use to Get a Better Medication Review
In the article, I explain that it’s a good idea to review an aging adult’s medications on your own, before going to see the doctor. This will free up some time when you’re actually seeing the doctor — which might mean more time for questions or discussion — and can help you spot safety issues that a non-geriatrician might otherwise not notice.
Specifically, I recommend you consider the following five steps:
- List all medications your older relative is taking, along with the intended purpose of each medication.
- If the purpose of a medication is to control a sign or symptom, take note of when the symptom was last checked on, and how it’s been doing.
- Check to see if any of the medications are on the Beer’s list.
- Check for signs of over-treatment, especially for high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Check for drug interactions.
For more information on how to complete these steps, including links to useful resources, read the full article at A Place for Mom.
You can also learn more about the overtreatment of hypertension and diabetes in this NY Times article: Some Older Patients Are Treated Not Wisely, but Too Much.
Last but not least: try our podcast episode on deprescribing (featuring the wonderful deprescribing expert Dr. Cara Tannenbaum), plus we have a related article here: Deprescribing: How to Be on Less Medication for Healthier Aging.
Questions? Comments? Let me know below!