How many medications do you grandparents take? Make sure they consult their doctor about it as a study warns that older adults, who take more than five medications, are at increased risk of falls, frailty, disability and even death. “Polypharmacy” is the term used when someone takes many (usually five or more) different medications. Older adults may have difficulties taking the medications properly and the medications may interfere with a person’s ability to function well.
The ability to walk well, for example, is a sign of independence and good health for older adults and it may be affected by the use of multiple medications. In a new study, researchers examined how polypharmacy affected walking while talking. The team examined 482 people aged 65 and older. The study’s main purpose was to determine how changes to the brain and our central nervous system occur during aging and how they might impact an older person’s ability to walk. The researchers confirmed about the medications (prescriptions as well as herbal and other over-the-counter supplements) that the participants were taking.
The participants took detailed exams assessing physical health, mental well-being, and mobility at the start of the study and at yearly follow-up appointments. The results suggested that 34% used five or more medications during the study period (June 2011-February 2016); 10% used more than eight medications. The participants were mostly in their late 70s.
Those, who took eight or more medications, had slower walking speed when walking while talking. The team concluded that there was a link between polypharmacy and walking speed. They also noted that at their check-ups, older adults should be asked about all the medications they take, including herbal and other over-the-counter supplements. They also suggested that healthcare professionals measure walking speed during regular check-ups. The research is published in the journal of the American Geriatrics Society.