A Nurse’s Perspective Regarding Polypharmacy in Our Senior Population
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, polypharmacy is defined as the concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient to treat coexisting conditions which may result in adverse drug interactions. In the United States, many seniors struggle significantly as a result of polypharmacy. A testament to our current, over-medicated status in American healthcare.
Often considered the most compliant age-bracket by physicians, seniors are typically expected follow their doctors orders with few questions asked. Unfortunately, senior compliance doesn’t always translate to adequate care and proper treatment. Somnolence, depression, anxiety, fatigue, psychosis, weakness, confusion, insomnia are just a few of the side effects and adverse reactions faced by seniors who are struggling with polypharmacy. And those don’t include the life-threatening emergencies that many seniors face as a result of not understanding their medication regimen, as a result of being prescribed too many medications, often by several doctors. The problem is real and sadly, our most senior patients are at greatest risk. Polypharmacy plays a serious role in the zombification of our elderly. Visit any long-term care facility or nursing home and you’ll find this problem to be clear and evident.
Bearing witness to these issues are the Baby-Boomers who have watched their Great Generation parents struggle with many of the problems caused by polypharmacy-related syndromes. As a result, Baby-Boomers are more readily turning to alternative therapies to treat their symptoms. In my experience, patients in this age-bracket value their quality of life and are not willing to compromise. Understandably so. Watching a loved one’s or a parent’s health decline over time is traumatic. Seeing your loved one become an overmedicated zombie is also tragic. So Baby-Boomers are expressing a resounding “NO!” to the care their parents received and seeking complementary, alternative therapies in addition to traditional treatments. At the forefront of the therapies Baby-Boomers seek these days is cannabis.
Many Baby-Boomers will tell you that they used cannabis in their teen years and during college, but stopped using it when they became parents. Today, they comprise one of the fastest growing demographics of cannabis-users, particularly men who are 50 years old and older.
Pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia are just a few of the conditions that many Baby-Boomers seek relief from when they use cannabis. And perhaps the greatest benefit for the people who do choose cannabis to treat their symptoms? They are not at risk of suffering from polypharmacy if cannabis is the only substance they are using. One medicinal plant treats a multitude of conditions. To which the baby-boomers are overwhelmingly saying a resounding “YES!” And who could blame them? Certainly not this Cannabis Nurse.
Han, B. H., Sherman, S., Mauro, P. M., Martins, S. S., Rotenberg, J., & Palamar, J. J. (2016, December 05). Demographic trends among older cannabis users in the United States, 2006–13. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13670/abstract?systemMessage=Wiley%2BOnline%2BLibrary%2Bwill%2Bbe%2Bunavailable%2Bon%2BSaturday%2B17th%2BDecember%2B2016%2Bat%2B09%3A00%2BGMT%2F%2B04%3A00%2BEST%2F%2B17%3A00%2BSGT%2Bfor%2B4hrs%2Bdue%2Bto%2Bessential%2Bmaintenance.Apologies%2Bfor%2Bthe%2Binconvenience
Polypharmacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polypharmacy?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld