I found this article recently that looked at the effects of medication review by geriatric specialists on the overall health of elderly patients. While this seems to be a no-brainer, elderly patients are more at risk for suffering combined effects of multiple medications as well as changes in the way they metabolize drugs out of their systems.
With an increased focus on patient safety on all of our minds, monitoring elderly patients to ensure they are not receiving too much of one medication or a dangerous combination of multiple meds falls to the entire care team. I’ve reported in the past about studies on nursing home falls and how reducing some medications had a positive effect.
The study in the article above concluded that 26% of patients were either given inappropriate prescriptions or too high a dose of a necessary med. It reviewed the care of 850,000 U.S. veterans cared for in VA facilities in 1999 and 2000. Interestingly, the 3% of the studied patients who were cared for by a geriatric specialist had a greatly decreased risk of similar medication errors.
It makes sense that the elderly need specialized care in a similar way that children need pediatric specialists. With decreased organ function across their body system, the elderly react differently to disease, medication, and injury. We know this and yet we don’t necessarily change our oversight to account for those differences. They are often treated under the same guidelines used for a healthy 40 year-old.