If you have aging parents, you probably know the routine of filling up the weekly pill organizer.
Senior patients take about three times as many medications as younger patients do. They are the greatest consumers of prescription and non-prescription medications.
Did you know that seniors are also most at risk from the adverse effects of taking multiple medications, known as polypharmacy within the healthcare community?
Taking numerous medications becomes increasingly complex if your loved one is diagnosed with depression.
The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation has indicated nearly 15 percent of people older than 65 and almost half of nursing home residents have depression. And seniors are different in both the way depression manifests, and the way their depression needs to be treated. Dr. Allan A. Anderson often deals with this in his practice.
“Many of the patients who come in to see me are on multiple other medications. Cardiac medicines, medicines for pulmonary disease, medicines for pain, chronic osteoarthritis is a very common presentation for many of my patients,” said Dr. Anderson, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry and past President of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry. “It’s uncommon for me to have any geriatric patient who isn’t on any medication.”
According to the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, late-life depression, when untreated, has a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life. The Formulary Journal says that untreated depression may result in patients developing chronic medical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, and worsening others such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is clear that particular care should be taken when selecting which antidepressant medication could be prescribed for older adults. A doctor should know what other medications the patient is taking, as medications may interact with each other in a way that produces harmful side effects. And they should determine which medications are best for the patient.
Rather than using the traditional approach to finding the right medication – “trial and error” – more and more health care providers like Dr. Anderson are using the GeneSight® test. Analyzing a person’s DNA using the GeneSight test can help healthcare providers develop an individualized treatment plan for their patients. The report includes helpful information about how the patient’s genetic makeup may affect dosage.
“In my experience, mood disorders in the older patient are more difficult to treat — with inappropriate treatment leading to more emergency department visits and more psychiatric hospitalizations,” said Dr. Anderson. “It is a relief to my patients and their families to know that a medication decision is more likely to be the right one, right away.”
So, while it is a common practice to treat a senior with depression using an antidepressant, do take the time to work with your loved one’s physician to make sure it’s the right medication and the right dosage.
To hear more from Dr. Allan Anderson, click here.
Disclaimer: Dr. Anderson is a paid consultant of Assurex Health, Inc.