Hidden Costs of Over Medicating

Geriatrician Calls for Holistic View to Patient Care 

If you worry doctors might be overeager to prescribing drugs to elderly patients, you’re not alone. During a recent Senior Umbrella Network – Brooklyn meeting at the Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, Dr. Jennifer Breznay discussed the challenges of polypharmacy (the over prescription of drugs) and how her practice has learned to better gauge a patient’s health.

Dr. Breznay, an associate program director for Maimonides Medical Center’s geriatrics department, said a good geriatrician needs to see “the forest AND the trees” when assessing a patient, considering not only a patient’s acute symptoms and medication, but looking at how those factors impact their day-to-day life.   Dr. Jennifer Breznay_Mainmonides Medical Center Geriatrics Department

A patient’s ability to perform daily functions like cooking, showering and walking can be “much more predictive of their health outcomes than anything else,” Breznay said.  “We have to help [our patients] predict the future.”

Breznay reasons that illness is a part of the aging process, and medical interventions like prescription drugs can sometimes make a minor, non-life threatening condition a major impediment in her patients’ lives. To that end, she focuses on three “big picture” questions that better evaluate a patient’s quality of life:

–        Has the patient experienced any falls?

–        How are the patient’s cognitive abilities?

–        Has the patient experienced problems with incontinence?

While these questions might seem to cover disparate topics, Breznay says these factors all impact a patient’s ability to survive on their own and maintain a strong social support network, adding that problems in these areas are oftentimes linked back to over medication.

While polypharmacy undoubtedly impacts an individual patient, she also asked attendees to consider the bigger picture.  Citing a recent study of Adverse Drug Events (ADE), Breaznay said nursing homes on average pay $1.33 to mitigate the effects of ADEs for every dollar spent purchasing prescription drugs.

Breznay’s comments were well-received by those in attendance, and her calls to raise awareness about over medicating the elderly and the growing importance of providing quality geriatric care throughout New York City were met with enthusiastic agreement.

SelectCare’s staff commends the work of Dr. Breznay and her team at Maimonides, as well as the SUN-B executive board for finding such an interesting guest speaker.  Our own initial in-home assessments and free monthly nursing visits with our clients follow a very similar patient-focused, holistic approach to elder care. We are proud to say that by using this big picture approach to in-home health care and ensuring every member of a client’s health care team is kept in the know, we have been able to preserve the health, independence and dignity of our clients.

If you or a loved one would like to learn more about how SelectCare can make a difference in your life, call us today for a free in-home health and safety assessment.