Older Americans make up 13% of our population but account for 34% of all prescription medication use and 30% of all over-the-counter (OTC) medication use. This is due in large part to the fact that 4 out of 5 older Americans has 1 or more chronic conditions—often requiring multiple medications at once.
Accompanying this need for more medications as we age is the fact that older adults are also more susceptible to medication errors and adverse drug events—both of which can land them in the hospital and even lead to death. The typical patient with multiple medications has multiple prescribers, making it difficult for both the patient and the health care professionals to keep track of what’s being taken. Because of vision problems, health literacy levels, and even dementia, the older patient may also have a hard time reading and understanding the information on the label or given to them by their provider—40% of seniors can’t read a prescription label and 67% can’t understand the information given to them. Further complicating things is the fact that as we age, our bodies become more sensitive to drugs and more susceptible to complications. Declines in liver and kidney function change the way drugs are broken down and removed from the body, causing them to stay in the system longer—with more time to impact the body and interact with other drugs. All of these factors put seniors at high risk for drug-related complications. In an effort to promote safe and appropriate medication use in seniors, NCPIE (the National Coalition on Patient Information and Education) recently launched MUST (Medication Use Safety Training) for Seniors. The Alliance for Aging Research served on the Project Advisory Team of this important program that tackles the basics of safe use—offering presentation tips and resources for communication and health leaders, tip sheets for patients, expert videos, and more. To learn more about this exciting campaign visit MUST for Seniors.