Polypharmacy in older adults at home: what it is and what to do about it--implications for home healthcare and hospice

Home Healthc Nurse. 2012 Sep;30(8):474-85; quiz 486-7. doi: 10.1097/NHH.0b013e31826502dd.


Polypharmacy--the use of more medications than are clinically indicated--is a problem that affects many older adults. Adults aged 65 years and older make up approximately 13% of the population, but they consume nearly one third of all prescriptions dispensed. Older adults are more prone to adverse drug reactions and drug-drug interactions due to physiological changes and multiple comorbidities. The harmful effects that may be caused by the inappropriate use of medications include but are not limited to: side effects, drug interactions, and high drug costs. Polypharmacy may lead to a decrease in quality of life. With an increase in specialization across medicine, many patients see multiple prescribers and may fill medications at multiple pharmacies. This can contribute to the problem of polypharmacy. Periodic medication reviews and effective and constant communication between healthcare providers and patients can help to identify potentially inappropriate medications, which is essential in aiding to reduce polypharmacy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / drug effects*
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Nurse's Role
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States