Preventing Polypharmacy in Older Adults

Kathleen Woodruff MS, CRNP


Am Nurs Journal. 2010;5(10) 

In This Article

Adverse Reactions to Drugs

Adverse reactions are common in older adults and often manifest differently than in younger patients. An estimated 35% of ambulatory older adults experience an adverse drug reaction each year; 29% of these reactions require hospitalization or a physician's care. What's more, some adverse reactions are identified incorrectly as health problems. For instance, falls, dementia, and urinary incontinence are common in the elderly and can result from a health problem or a medication.

In a prescribing cascade, an adverse reaction to one drug goes unrecognized or misinterpreted, causing the healthcare provider to inappropriately subscribe a second drug to treat signs and symptoms. This can lead to potentially dangerous situations and overprescribing.