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Too Many Pills?

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

If you’re caring for an elderly loved one, you’ve probably been confronted with the pill dilemma. Your loved one may have a dozen or more medications to take every day. Keeping everything straight can be a challenge. To make matter worse, few older adults have their medications reviewed regularly.

Here are five things to consider if you’re concerned about the number of pills your loved one is taking every day.

Fewer Medications is Often Safer

That’s because the more medications an older adult takes, the greater the chance of side-effects, interactions, and emergencies due to adverse events. Tell doctors that you would prefer your loved one be on fewer medications if possible. Ask the doctors – or a pharmacist – to help you identify any medications that could be eliminated.

Consider Non-Drug Treatments

Many doctors recommend prescription medication as a default. Whenever a doctor proposes a prescription medication treatment for a given problem, be sure to ask about non-drug treatment options. The doctor should be happy to review these once you’ve expressed your interest.

Beware of Forgotten Meds

Plan on actively reviewing the need for every medication on a yearly basis. If a medication was recently added during a hospitalization, make sure the primary care doctor checks up on it at a later follow-up visit. You can also request a comprehensive medication review, which usually means that all medications are re-evaluated for appropriateness and safety.

Check the Beers List

The Beers List is a list of medications that older adults should avoid or use with caution. If you discover that your parent is taking medications that are on the Beer’s list, the American Geriatrics Society offers an excellent guide that explains what do to.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

Risks can often be reduced with a lower dosage of a medication. When considering starting or continuing a medication, plan on asking the doctor to clarify the likely benefit, along with the risk. The likely benefit is often smaller than people realize.

These simple steps will help your parents get the medications they need and avoid the medications they don’t need.


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