A few months ago this geriatric care manager accompanied a client to see his cardiologist. ‘Don’t know why, maybe the next patient canceled, but Pete got more than his twenty minutes with the doc. He took a good look at Pete’s medications. And then, like a teacher grading a test paper, he started to make red slashes through some medications and circles around others. One of the first slashes was through the very medication he prescribed years ago…Lipitor. At age 88 he felt this medication was no longer necessary for Pete. He circled other medications on the list and suggested I consult with Pete’s internist about either lessening the dosage or discontinuing them totally.
There is a name for this medication overload: “polypharmacy.” Too many drugs. Each time a drug is added, it has the potential to work against another drug and cause unwelcome interactions. Add to this trying to keep accurate records of what to take and when to take it and the process can become very confusing.
But getting back to Pete, we were cutting down. At our next visit to his internist she took over where the cardiologist left off. Pete’s diet had changed considerably over the years, so the Nexium was no longer necessary. The memory medication, well that was not the miracle drug pharmaceutical companies would have liked us to believe. He was weaned off that. “Regularity,” well it hadn’t been a problem, but she did not want to create a problem. So Senna was a stay. That, along with his blood pressure medication and a diuretic are the ones that remain.
This geriatric care manager recognizes the potential that medications have to prevent, control and cure. But I also learned a valuable lesson from Pete’s doctors. At certain intervals it is necessary to question and re-evaluate. In this case, a reduced medication list was just what the doctors ordered and nobody was the worst for it, except for the cash register at Walgreens.