An estimated 47 million adults living in the United States were age 65 and older in 2017, according to research conducted by SeniorLiving.org. The Population Reference Bureau projects that number will more than double to nearly 100 million individuals by 2060. The combination of the expanding elderly population taken together with an average lifespan of 78.6 years for men and slightly more than 81 years for women highlights the need to improve medication-related outcomes in this population. Facilitating how senior citizens manage their medications by engaging technology, support systems, healthcare providers, and other resources are good places to start.
Geriatric patients face many challenges in managing their medications, which is sometimes very complex due to their medical conditions,” says Jin Seon Kim-Paglingayen, MD, an assistant clinical professor of health sciences in the department of family medicine at University of Southern California, Riverside.
Experts have varying opinions when it comes to pinpointing the biggest hurdle in helping senior citizens manage their medications. However, polypharmacy appears to be a recurring theme—especially as prescription medication use continues to rise.
Prescription medication use among the geriatric population has more than doubled over the last 20 years. A 2015 study published in The Journals of Gerontology that evaluated data from 13,869 adults ages 65 and older in the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-2010) found that older patients took a median number of two medications in 1988; by 2010, that number had doubled to four medications with 40% of the patients taking 5 or more medications.
Trending: The Economic Burden of Cancer Care
Jessica Triboletti, PharmD, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Butler University College and ambulatory care clinical pharmacy specialist at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis, notes the medication management is not exclusive to prescription medications. Comprehensive medication management should also include over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and herbal products.
According to Jacqueline Hagarty, PharmD, BCGP, an ambulatory clinical pharmacy specialist at Banner Pharmacy Services in Phoenix, taking multiple medications can have serious consequences. A high pill burden contributes to low adherence rates, but poor understanding or lack of education on the medications also hinders patient adherence.
“I find that many of my patients do not know the indications for all of their medications, so they do not understand the importance of taking them every day,” she observes.
Hagarty also finds that some patients may feel overwhelmed by managing their medications. Many patients are also worried about side effects and interactions, but they do not always express these concerns to their health care providers.
Polypharmacy, the need for increased collaboration among healthcare professionals, and improving communication are not the only challenges in the world of medication management. Kim-Paglingayen points out that particular circumstances such as language barriers, lack of transportation, and physical or mental disabilities require unique solutions.
Continue reading on page 2...