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Older Adults Need Help Keeping Track of Medications

Older Americans who take four or more daily medications are advised to keep a chart so they don't end up in the hospital because of a drug mishap. (Lorie Gelwick Tuter)
Older Americans who take four or more daily medications are advised to keep a chart so they don't end up in the hospital because of a drug mishap. (Lorie Gelwick Tuter)
April 18, 2016

BALTIMORE – About half of older adults in the United States take four or more medications a day, and that can possibly lead to deadly errors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse drug reactions result in more than 700,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms each year.

Dr. Alicia Arbaje, a geriatric and internal medicine physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, says the number of medications being prescribed keeps increasing, so seniors may need help keeping track of what they need, and what they don't need.

"They're just taking it because someone told them to, or they think they're taking it for one thing and they're taking it for something else, and that's really important because that will help remind people why they want to take it,” she relates. “'Oh yeah, this is for my blood pressure,' or, 'This one's for pain, I don't have pain right now. Maybe I don't need this one.'"

Arbaje says if patients have three or more chronic illnesses or is taking more than four daily medications, then they should ask for help in monitoring those drugs.

Arbaje says there are tools to help keep track of which prescriptions are needed and what they're prescribed for.

"It can be as simple as a list on paper that gets updated every time you go to the doctor, or every time there's a change in your medical status,” she states. “It could be as fancy as an app on your phone that reminds you to take your medications."

The CDC says older adults are twice as likely as others to be sent to the emergency room for adverse drug events, and nearly seven times more likely to be hospitalized because of mishaps with medicine.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD