“With age comes wisdom” is a familiar adage. Healthcare professionals recognize age also brings increased risk for adverse drug events and health complications. Medication is a common treatment option, but changes in an aging body can lead to unintended harm from routine prescriptions and even over-the-counter medications.
The personal experience of Kristen Carter, PharmD, pharmacy manager at Lynn’s Dakotamart Pharmacy in Pierre, SD, led her to explore the impact of aging on medication and become one of less than 4,000 pharmacists in the country with a Board Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy.
“I have learned that achieving quality of life is sometimes more important than aggressively treating conditions, and optimal outcomes do not always translate to perfect lab results,” Carter explained. “The target of my practice is to help identify the patient’s goal in balancing increased longevity and improved quality of life, and to help adjust doses and reduce the number of medications in order to obtain that goal.”
Carter will share expertise and insights during the Impact of Aging on Medication Use webinar, hosted by the Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) on March 16, 2021 at 3:00 PM CT. Those in attendance will learn how the aging process impacts the effectiveness of medication and what modification methods can improve quality of life.
“My interest in the aging process started after observing two close family members age in different ways. One was in good physical shape but suffered from dementia, the other maintained high cognitive function but had a deteriorating heart,” Carter recalled. “This disconnected process, while painful to witness, prompted me to study geriatrics and the aging body.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a chronic disease diagnosis exists for 80 percent of Americans 65 years and older. While adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce symptoms and disease progression, many individuals struggle to make lasting change.
Referrals to chronic disease self-management workshops can help provide support and guidance beyond the exam room to improve health outcomes. The North Dakota Community Clinical Collaborations (NDC3) and Better Choices, Better Health South Dakota offer a collection of free self-management education workshops focused on chronic disease, diabetes, pain management and cancer. These workshops provide tools to empower individuals to take charge of their health at every stage of life.
“As a pharmacy student, I learned the difficulties of managing disease states in the elderly as organ systems naturally lose function and medication side effects increase. I heavily studied geriatric pharmacy and the death and dying process,” Carter shared. “After graduating, I devoted much of my time to helping elderly patients manage their disease states as they age. This felt like an area in which I could make a difference.”
CDC reports over 90 percent of those 65 and older take at least one medication, and over 40 percent of those have five or more prescriptions. Previously effective prescriptions or medication therapy used to control a single condition or combination of conditions may need to be adjusted as the body ages. A higher risk for adverse drug events exists for medication used to manage cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and pain.
Preventable harm and increased healthcare cost are resulting from adverse drug events in homes and healthcare facilities across the country, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Quality improvement efforts to increase medication safety could reduce the 2 million hospital stays, 1 million emergency department visits and 125,000 hospital admissions resulting from adverse events.
Additional resources and tools for improving medication safety can be found on the Great Plains QIN Patient Safety Web page.