Learn how deprescribing works, & how aging adults can safely reduce their medications. Plus 7 types of medication that seniors should avoid or reduce.
Why is deprescribing especially important for older adults?
Deprescribing is especially important to address in older adults because:
- People tend to be prescribed more medications as they get older. A 2015 study found that almost 40% of older Americans take five or more prescription medications.
- Many older adults experience “inappropriate prescribing.” Studies have found that 20% to 79% of older participants were taking a potentially inappropriate medication. Despite recent efforts to educate doctors about safer medication prescribing in aging, it remains common for seniors to be prescribed medications on the “Beer’s List”, which is a regularly updated American Geriatrics Society list of “Medications that Older Adults Should Avoid or Use with Caution.”
- Many “potentially inappropriate medications” are bad for the brain, or increase the risk of falls. Falls and declines in mental abilities are two very common problems that most older adults want to avoid. Yet many of them don’t realize that they are often taking medications associated with increased risk for these problems.
- Older adults are more vulnerable to side-effects and harm from their medications. The CDC estimates that every year 177,000 older adults visit the emergency room due to medication problems.
- Most older people would like to be on fewer medications. Surveys generally find that older adults don’t like being on many medications.
- It is often possible — and usually safer — to treat many health conditions with non-pharmacological methods, such as therapy and lifestyle changes.