Medication of the elderly

As a person grows older and diseases become more common, he/she often has to use many kinds of drugs.

One in ten people over 75 years of age uses at least 10 prescription medicines concurrently, some use up to 20 different medicines. It might be difficult for an elderly person to take so many medicines without errors. However, a well-executed pharmacotherapy can maintain or improve the functional ability and the quality of life of an elderly person.

Many persons with long-term illnesses need several medicines. If you are using more than ten medicines, you should have your whole medication checked by a physician or at a pharmacy. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health recommends that the need and safety of an elderly patient's medication be evaluated at least once a year.

To ensure the success of an elderly person's pharmacotherapy:

  • Visit a physician regularly and ask him/her to write down your treatment in the care and service plan. Also ask your physician to write down your medication plan as a part of the care and service plan.
  • Ask your attending physician to evaluate the need and safety of the medication every year.
  • You can request your physician or a pharmacy to assess your entire medication if you are an elderly person using more than ten medicines or if you visit more than one physician.
  • Always keep with you a list of the medicines you use. Also include any over-the-counter-medicines or dietary supplements into the list.
  • Remember to renew your prescriptions in time to ensure that you have enough of the medicines you use.

Your body changes, and so does the medication

When a person ages, the effect of medicines in his/her body often changes.

Renal function becomes less effective, which slows down the elimination of many medicines. The brain and heart might become more sensitive to the effects of medicines, and even previously familiar medicines can cause adverse reactions.

Adverse effects in the elderly include, among others, dizziness, muscular weakness, dry mouth, constipation, grogginess and nightmares. A physician should therefore regularly monitor an elderly person's medication and reduce the doses if necessary. The number of medicinal preparations can also be reduced.