Boston and North, MA
(617) 623-9300
Caregiver wearing PPE reminding senior of medication
Published By Right at Home Boston and North on February 15, 2021

Polypharmacy and Older Adults

It's no surprise that polypharmacy is a significant issue among older adults. Did you know that our body systems are at its peak somewhere around thirty? And from then on, it goes down at about 1% per year. For one thing, our organs work differently when we are over 65 years of age. We may not need as high of medication dose as we used to when we were younger.

Plus, let's not forget that we sometimes may get a paradoxical effect or a reverse reaction when we use medication for one purpose. This may happen to the frequent use of Benadryl or even allergy medicines. If you have ever taken any such medicine and suffered an opposite reaction, don't get confused as it affects people in a certain way.

Now, this could be overwhelming. Well, there's nothing to be scared about.

At Right at Home, we have a team of registered nurses that can help our clients get to their medical professionals and make a change if our client feels that their medication is causing an issue.

In this article, we have outlined all that you need to know about polypharmacy among older adults.

Causes of Polypharmacy:

A number of factors cause polypharmacy:

  • Self-medicating, without understanding the side effects of the drugs.
  • Lack of communication between the doctor, nurse and pharmacist.
  • Filling prescriptions at multiple pharmacies.
  • An increased number of treatments for the aging population.

Signs and Symptoms:

Common signs of polypharmacy include:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Tests and Treatments:

The best thing to do is talk to the pharmacist as well as the doctor. Make sure that you have the most accurate information. Know that doctors learn the anatomy of the medication; what it is supposed to do to your body. On the other hand, pharmacists learn how it interacts with another drug. So, it's a partnership between the pharmacist and doctor to help with the conditions and find the right medicines.

How often do you hear your pharmacist asking you: “what other medications are you taking?” Or “do you have any questions about your medications?”

This is all because your pharmacist is aware that the fillers in medication that causes the problem. Imagine taking medication for cholesterol, for example, containing a little extra salt or sugar for the taste. Now, that could give you high blood pressure. You may then have to go on a high blood pressure medication to help regulate that.

When the problem initially is from one particular medication, and your pharmacist and doctor work well together, perhaps you can get off one medicine and find another alternative. This alternative will help your cholesterol levels at an appropriate level while ensuring not to give you high blood pressure.

When to Call Your Health Care Provider?

If you feel defeated by all the prescribed medications, it's time to call your health care provider. In tune, urinary incontinence, malnourishment, and cognitive impairment are also points of concern. If you are a Right at Home client, talk to the office and we will have one of our nurses talk to you about your or your loved one’s medication and some practical steps.


Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Therefore, we would encourage you to keep a detailed medication history, which may include all your medications, schedule of the treatment and also, the reason for an indication for every medicine. With our RightMeds service line, our nursing team can help manage your loved ones medication and help avoid the problems of polypharmacy. Call Diane Dolan our Private Care Program Manager to find out more about our RightMeds program. Call 978-306-1333 or email

Contact Us Online


Golchin, N., Frank, S. H., Vince, A., Isham, L., & Meropol, S. B. (2015). Polypharmacy in the elderly. Journal of research in pharmacy practice, 4(2), 85.
Hammond, T., & Wilson, A. (2013). Polypharmacy and falls in the elderly: a literature review. Nursing and midwifery studies, 2(2), 171-175.

0447bdf2-aab1-42ca-8f9c-99f51caa4ac9 LocalSite