These days, it seems like there is a pill for almost any ailment. As our bodies age and weaken, it comes to no surprise that our pill intake is likely to increase. But could you ever imagine yourself taking fifteen or even up to eighteen prescriptions per year? According to the American Association of Consultant Pharmacists, people between the age of 65 and 69 take an average of 15 prescriptions a year, while those between the age of 80 and 84 take up to an average of 18.
It is not necessarily a practice that starts with age, either. The AARP also found that those in their 40’s take up to 4 different prescriptions every day. These astonishing findings pose the question: Are you taking too many pills?
Side effects caused by the combination of multiple drugs are nearly responsible for almost a third of hospital admissions. These numbers are staggering! Medication-related issues are responsible for over 30,000 hip fractures in seniors each year. When one is overmedicated, they often feel dizzy standing up or engaging in an activity. Even driving when taking too many pills can be a recipe for a bad accident.
This practice of overmedicating is known as polypharmacy and is commonly found in care facilities such as nursing homes. Many believe that nursing homes overmedicate in an effort to keep their patients more passive. These drugs are called anti-psychotics, a class of prescriptions meant to be used to treat psychosis as well as schizophrenia and dementia. However, these drugs are not meant for all elder ailments, yet many nursing homes use them to manage and contain their residents.
Taking too many pills is also often found in those who are suffering from heart disease. According to Stephen Sinatra, an internationally renowned cardiologist, each drug performs a different yet very important function. For example, one can treat high cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar or irregular heart rhythm, just to name a few.
If you are caring for a loved one, do not be afraid to research all prescriptions and speak up. Have more of a partnership with your health care provider rather than just being told what to do. Ask questions to make sure you are comfortable with the prescriptions. If you feel your doctor is not collaborating with you, it may be time to find a new specialist. It happens too frequently that a mix of drugs cause a deadly adverse effect. Full transparency with all health providers is essential to prevent an unexpected reaction.