Medications: Problems in the Elderly

Elderly patients (those 65 years and older) are at increased risk for medication problems.1 One problem occurs because they often see several doctors/specialists who don’t always pay attention to what the other is prescribing, so the older patients get a condition that we call “polypharmacy” (too many medications). You can help solve this problem by keeping al ist of all of their drugs in a nice online medication record, like a personal health record, and keep it updated.

Also enter all of their medication into the “Drug Interaction Checker” at so you can find if any of their drugs are not supposed to be prescribed together. Print out everything that comes up on that interaction checker and show it to the doctor.

Another problem is that elderly patients’ systems don’t metabolize drugs the same as they did when they were younger so dosages need to be properly adjusted. You can check the dosages of their drugs at the website. It will tell you what the dosages should be for elderly patients. Check with the doctor if you find that the dosages are higher than they should be considering their age.

A third problem for the elderly is that they are often prescribed drugs that they really shouldn’t be taking. A number of medical articles have been written describing these drugs that probably shouldn’t be prescribed for the elderly. These drugs are usually listed as “The Beers Criteria”. Put “the Beers Criteria” into a Google search and you’ll find lists of these drugs. You can learn more about “The Beers Criteria” on this very informative research presentation by Duke University:

If your elderly loved one is on one of these medications, check with his doctor to see if the drug can be safely discontinued. Better safe than sorry.

Studies, Footnotes and Resources:

  1. Gurwitz, Jerry H., Terry S. Field, and Leslie R. Harrold et al. “Incidence and Preventability of Adverse Drug Events among Older Persons in the Ambulatory Setting.” Journal of the American Medical Association 289 (2003): 1107-1116.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *