National Medication Safety Week: Shedding Light on Life-Threatening Dangers of Polypharmacy

BrightStar Care Offers Expert Advice for Seniors at Risk of Poisonous Cocktail

Individuals aged 65 to 69 average 14 prescription medications per year, and individuals between the ages of 80 and 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year, according to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. As National Medication Safety Week kicks off on April 1, BrightStar Care, a full-service home care agency that provides both medical and non-medical care to patients from infants to elders, aims to provide valuable advice on polypharmacy, the term used to describe the usage of five of more prescription drugs at once.

Adverse drug events, or ADEs, due to negative effects of polypharmacy are to blame for over 120,000 emergency room visits annually, resulting in $3.5 billion in medical costs across the country. Nationally, experts agree that with increased education and precautions, the rate of ADEs in America can be drastically reduced. With this pervasive issue in mind, BrightStar Care delivers in-home health assessments, including evaluations of prescription medications and potential dangers for clients.

"Negative effects related to polypharmacy are one of the top health risks seniors face," says Sharon Roth Maguire MS, RN, GNP-BC, and Chief Clinical Quality Officer of BrightStar Care. "Our trained professionals are in the homes of those at risk everyday and we feel a responsibility to share our expertise with as many families as possible to tackle this epidemic." As a Joint Commission Enterprise Champion of Quality, BrightStar Care has processes in place nation-wide that meet National Patient Safety Goals one of which is improving the safety of using medications.

Roth Maguire offers family members and caretakers the following advice to reduce risk factors associated with polypharmacy:

* Make a list of medications - Compile a comprehensive list and have complete understanding of what each medication does. If you are unsure about a medication, ask the physician who prescribed it for more information. This list should be available to each physician the patient visits.

* Use a pillbox to help remember when each medication should be taken - To reduce "pill burden," organize medications in a simple pillbox with separate compartments for each day of the week. A schedule should also be available in print form to double check the accuracy of the pillbox.

* Be sure to keep all prescriptions filled - It is important to have all current medication on hand and to dispose of any that has passed its expiration date.

* Do not take medication that is not prescribed - Medications that are not prescribed by a medical professional can have unintended side effects on one's health and other prescriptions. Also, it is vital to continue to take all medication for the duration prescribed, even if the condition improves.

* It is not safe to mix alcohol and prescription medications - This combination can be especially dangerous when taking medicine for sleep, pain, anxiety, or depression.

"Polypharmacy is most dangerous for seniors seeing multiple physicians and specialists," adds Roth Maguire. "Communicate with family members and caretakers to make sure all medications prescribed are accounted for and medical professionals have up-to-date records so they are well-informed and able to prescribe accurate medications."

To find more helpful tips, videos, blog articles and downloads on this topic and others, please visit http://www.brightstarcare.com/blog/.

About BrightStar Care

Based in Chicago, BrightStar Care is a national franchise with more than 250 locations that provide full-service staffing of medical and non-medical homecare to private clients from children to older adults within their homes, as well as supplemental staffing to healthcare organizations and corporate clients. Each of BrightStar's locations pursue Joint Commission accreditation, a nationally recognized measure of quality that is utilized throughout the healthcare industry. BrightStar Care's well-qualified, attentive caregivers provide peace of mind to clients and their families, providing a customized care plan to match clients with qualified, pre-screened caregivers that best suit their needs. BrightStar Care is one of the few home care providers that offer both medical and non-medical homecare, available to all clients 24/7. BrightStar Care uses the nationally known patient satisfaction survey company Press Ganey to measure client satisfaction and is proud that nine of 10 clients would recommend BrightStar to a friend. For more information on BrightStar Care please visit brightstarcare.com; to find out more about BrightStar Franchising, visit www.brightstarfranchise.com.