Medication Overload in Older Americans

For decades, American doctors have warned older patients about the risks of polypharmacy, which occurs when these patients take too many drugs prescribed by too many different doctors, which can produce unwanted and unanticipated side effects. Research indicates that 25% of people between the ages of 65 and 69 take at least five different prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions. For individuals between the ages of 70 and 79, that figure jumps to 46%. In fact, it is quite common to see elderly Americans taking 20 drugs or more to combat a variety of chronic medical conditions. At the very least, polypharmacy can lead to medication problems, but in extreme cases, it can lead to unnecessary and wholly preventable deaths.

Polypharmacy often occurs when an elderly patient is admitted for a hospital stay. That patient often is discharged with a whole new host of prescription medications to add to his or her already existing list of medications. In many cases, the patient’s primary physician won’t question the addition of the new drugs to the patient’s medication regiment. It doesn’t help that Americans generally are taking more drugs than ever before; the percentage of Americans of all ages taking at least five prescription drugs almost doubled from 2000 to 2012, increasing from 8% to 15%. From 2004 to 2013, the percentage of people over the age of 65 who were taking at least three psychiatric drugs more than doubled. Even worse, almost half of these individuals, many of whom were prescribed strong antipsychotic drugs, didn’t even have a mental health diagnosis.

Excessive medication usage and polypharmacy in general both can lead to multiple problems in older Americans, including a lack of awareness of abuse or neglect by a caregiver. If your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of a caretaker, whether in a home health care setting, nursing home, or other healthcare facility, you may have a valid personal injury claim. This type of situation makes it essential to contact an experienced Wisconsin neglect and abuse attorney in order to protect your rights and obtain the financial relief that you deserve. Certain individuals have an obligation under the law to report suspected abuse or neglect of an elderly individual or nursing home or other facility resident. Those who fail to do so must face the consequences of their actions. Hold negligent Wisconsin care providers responsible for their actions. Contact Boller & Vaughan today and learn how we can help you.


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