Polypharmacy can be defined as taking more medications than are considered medically necessary. Often, individuals are prescribed a medication for a condition and then continue to take it long after the original issue has been resolved.

Polypharmacy is particularly important as people age and become frail. Seniors tend to have more health issues and have a decreased ability to process medications. Taking multiple medications at the same time can lead to increased side effects, drug interactions and adverse complications.

There have been limited studies conducted on the effect of medications in the frail elderly. This gap was identified and a group of clinical experts in Nova Scotia who, with the support of the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health and Wellness, have conducted research and developed a Polypharmacy toolkit which includes four sets of guidelines specifically for this fragile group of people.

Guidelines for 1) Hypertension (High Blood Pressure), 2) Lipids/Statins (Cholesterol Lowering), 3) Diabetes and 4) Bacteriuria (Urinary Tract Infections) have been developed and every frail elderly client living in a Shannex nursing home will have a medication review using the resources available in the Polypharmacy toolkit.

Medication reviews are the ideal time for the team to critically analyze the client’s medications and explore opportunities to reduce or eliminate meds. Reviews are conducted regularly for all clients.

For retirement living clients, discuss your medications with your physician and pharmacist to determine if any of the Polypharmacy guidelines apply to you.