Polypharmacy is a silent epidemic among the growing geriatric population causing untold falls, serious and often life threatening health problems and trips to the emergency room. It is estimated that more than half of visits to the hospital by older adults are extended by up to three days due to drug complications and a recent Veterans Affairs study found that 44 per cent of frail elderly patients were given at least one drug that was not necessary upon discharge from hospital.
The updated 2016 Beers List details the many drugs that should be used cautiously or avoided by older adults due to their risk for severe side effects. But too often older patients seen by multiple doctors do not have their full list of medications regularly evaluated for interactions or side effects.
The Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults was developed by the American Geriatrics Society and is update each year to keep current with recent studies and clinical reviews. The list offers recommendations, supported by references, on drugs which should be avoided by seniors. It includes prescription medications for heart failure, delirium, dementia, insomnia, Parkinson’s Disease, constipation, kidney disease, urinary incontinence as well as over-the-counter drugs including aspirin and antihistamines.
For the full 2016 Beers Criteria visit the American Geriatrics Society website by following this link. To help combat dangerous drug interactions and side effects, older adults should always keep an accurate, updated list of all medications on hand to take with them to the hospital or doctor visits. Members of The Oldish can access a Medication Checklist in the Toolkit. Fill all prescriptions with one pharmacy to avoid interactions and periodically review medication lists with your doctor (ideally a geriatrician) and pharmacist.
If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, speak with your doctor and do not stop or start any medication without consulting your physician first.