Why is Managing Meds So Hard?

by Mary S on February 19, 2012

Why is it so hard to help aging parents manage their medications?  I wish I had an easy answer, but I guess that if the answer was simple, then it wouldn’t be so hard. But it is.

It’s complicated. There are a lot of moving parts to prescription meds and they affect each other. It’s the way medicines are prescribed; fulfilled; paid for; and administered.  On top of that drugs interact differently with other drugs and have different effects for different people.  The unfortunate reality is the people who need medications the most – the elderly – are least capable of managing the complexity of taking them safely.  The cost of failure is high.  According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, for seniors, approximately 1 out of 10 hospital admissions are the result of the incorrect use of medications.

Here’s the story from a friend of mine, Donna: “My mother, a retired health care provider herself, ended up on twelve different prescriptions from three different doctors. Nobody had a comprehensive view of what she was taking. There were negative drug interactions we didn’t know about. But we did notice that Mom changed. She got depressed. She gained weight. We didn’t know why. Finally, we took all of our pills—in a grocery bag—to one doctor.  He whittled the list down down from twelve to four eliminating eight prescriptions she didn’t need. And now she’s herself again.”

What’s the root cause of Donna’s problem?

Sorry. That was a trick question. There’s no single root cause. It’s a system issue. And much of that system is broken. It’s more complicated that it should be. People like you and me can’t fix the whole system… at least, not yet.

So, what can we do? What can we do in the face of a mess? We can give up… or we can each do our little part. This blog is one step that I am taking to do what I can. First,  I want to share what I’ve learned as a long-distance caregiver to my parents. Then, I’d like to let you know what I believe we can achieve through NightingaleRx.com. Together, we can begin to make a difference.

Until next time,
–Mary

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