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Polypharmacy: Definition, Symptoms, and Management

Polypharmacy: Definition, Symptoms, and Management

Polypharmacy is defined as the simultaneous use of multiple medications to treat a single condition or the simultaneous use of multiple medications by an individual for one or more conditions. It is most common among individuals with multiple health issues, such as seniors.

Symptoms of Polypharmacy

Taking multiple medications at once can lead to potentially dangerous side effects and even life-threatening conditions. Please note that this applies not only to prescriptions but also to over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements, which individuals often take without informing their doctors or pharmacists.

At Rx Care Pharmacy, our pharmacists encourage you to watch out for the following side effects of mismanaged polypharmacy:

  • Falls
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Skin Rashes
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Decreased Alertness

Avoiding Mismanagement of Polypharmacy through Responsible Medication Management
The best thing you can do to avoid polypharmacy is to inform your loved one’s healthcare team of every medication, OTC drug, and supplement that they are taking. The easiest way to do this is to make a comprehensive and updated list of all their medications. This list should include each medication’s name, recommended dosage, strength, frequency, and any cautions as stated on the package or bottle.

Keep a copy for your records. Provide each of your loved one’s healthcare team with a copy, too. Each time a medication is changed, added, or removed, be sure to update it. This list allows your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist to get an accurate and complete picture of their health and medications before making any treatment decisions.

Here are other medication management tips to help you avoid polypharmacy:

  • Use one pharmacy to fill prescriptions
    If possible, choose one pharmacy in Orlando, Florida to fill all of your loved one’s prescriptions. Some people like to shop around to get the best prices for their medications, which often means filling them at different pharmacies. Unfortunately, this prevents pharmacists from gathering information about all of the medications that a person is taking and detecting possible interactions and side effects. To minimize the chances that potential risks will be overlooked, it is best to fill all your prescriptions from the same pharmacy.
  • Schedule Brown Bag Check-Ups
    Depending on how frequently your loved one’s medication regiment changes, it is wise to schedule brown bag check-ups at least once a year. Traditionally, brown bag check-ups involve bringing all of your medications in a brown bag (or you can use an updated copy of your loved one’s medication list) and reviewing these medications with your pharmacist. During the check-up, doctors and pharmacists can identify potential problems and make necessary adjustments.

The Bottom Line

Polypharmacy is one of the biggest threats to seniors’ health, longevity, and quality of life. Make sure to work with your loved one and their healthcare team to find ways to prevent medication issues. Following the suggestions listed above can help you get started.

For affordable medications in Florida, contact us!

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