One Medication Too Many?

Many American seniors are taking too many unnecessary prescription medications (a.k.a. polypharmacy), and suffering from harmful side effects and on occasion, death. Many seniors are taking on average 20 drugs, and this epidemic of polypharmacy has attracted little attention. A recent article in the Washington Post describes polypharmacy amongst the elderly as "...America's other prescription drug epidemic." How can you assess whether you, a parent or a loved-one is taking unneeded medication?

Many patients see multiple doctors and medication management can often be confusing. Most of my home care physical therapy patients have a long list of prescription medications they take daily. Physical therapists are familiar with medication side effects, and are often an important line of defense in screening patients who may be taking unnecessary medications. This is why I begin every home physical therapy session with a review of medications. Furthermore, patients should always have a list of all medications they take, and make it a point to always discuss medication management at every doctor's visit. Finally, patients should ask their doctors if their medications are deemed appropriate for their health status and according to the Beers Criteria, a list of potentially unsafe drugs for seniors which including antipsychotics and antidepressants. Some doctors are beginning to deprescribe medicine and the Beers Criteria and new tools assist them in making these decisions.

If you have a senior parent, neighbor or loved-one taking multiple medications and experiencing negative side-effects, I recommend they consult with a geriatric physician who is well-versed in medication management for the elderly. Physical therapy is always more effective when a patient is being well-managed medically by their health care team.

Evaluating Your Fall Risk

Perhaps the most common impairment I treat in the geriatric population is imbalance and fall risk. One in four seniors fall each year, and less than half tell their doctors. Falling once doubles your chance of falling again. Every year, 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for fall-related hip fractures, and falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.

Patients and their loved ones often ask me to conduct a physical therapy fall risk assessment. Some of the obvious culprits for increased fall risk are as follows:

1- Vision problems (get your eyes checked yearly) 2- Poorly-fitted or old footwear 3- Muscle weakness (mostly in core and lower extremity muscles) 4- Homes hazards (throw rugs, furniture clutter, poor lighting) 5- Medication side effects (be sure your MD reviews your medications to ensure no drug interactions that cause dizziness, imbalance and falls) 6- Low blood pressure

The last, and perhaps most common mistake I find when evaluating a senior patient, is their improper use of assistive devices. Patients often acquire assistive devices on their own (either at a store or online), and are never properly trained to use them. This is one of the greatest causes of patient falls. In fact, The Center for Disease Control lists improper use of assistive devices as one of the top risk factors for senior falls.

If you have a parent, loved one, neighbor or friend in Essex, Union, or Morris County NJ who may benefit from a fall risk assessment conducted by a skilled physical therapist in the comfort of home, please feel free to reach out to me. Please also send any questions related to this post and I'm happy to answer.

Regular Exercise Boosts Brain Function

I loved listening to this segment on NPR about the positive effects regular exercise can have on brain health. NYU Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki discusses how regular exercise can boost attention span, memory and mood, as well as stimulate new brain cell growth in the part of our brain that promotes memory.

Dr. Suzuki suggests that it's never too late to begin a regular exercise routine and reap the benefits. If you or a loved one are experiencing the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, decreased endurance or strength, and low energy levels, a home care physical therapist can evaluate and prescribe a safe, personally tailored exercise program.

Contact us to find out more about how our quality, one-on-one home care physical therapy in Livingston, West Orange, South Orange, Millburn, Short Hills, Summit and Chatham can assist you in starting a regular exercise routine.