Old is gold

The older generation needs a little extra attention and these pharmacists provide just that.

As we age, our bodies will inevitably deteriorate but the effects can be slowed down with the right diet, exercise and living a healthy lifestyle.

We speak to Clinical Pharmacist in the Geriatric Ward of Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Catherine Chuah on geriatric health problems and how best to care for an aged loved one.

1Twenty80: What do you think is the number one geriatric health concern in malaysia?

Catherine Chuah: In my experience in the geriatric ward, usually the health problems in the elderly are diabetes and hypertension. In those who are aged around 60 to 70 years old,

we usually see Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

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1Twenty80: What are the common medication-related problems you’ve seen at the geriatric ward?

Chuah: Firstly, our patients have a lot of co-morbidities which means they have more than two illnesses. For instance, some may have both diabetes and hypertension at the same time. Each disease needs medication to control or treat and with more than one disease to manage, there can be quite a lot of medications to take. We want to prevent drug-drug interactions and drug-disease interaction which could happen especially when the patient is taking multiple kinds of medications. For instance, sometimes, the patient may feel stiffness then we need to check if it is due to a drug side effect or from the disease.

Another problem in the elderly is that they may not be able to swallow as well as we can and so we need to provide solutions such as perhaps crushing the tablet or other routes to help them.

Quote: In my experience in the geriatric ward, usually the health problems in the elderly are diabetes and hypertension. 

1Twenty80: What drugs may affect the older generation more?

Chuah: Medications that cause drowsiness or delusions such as painkillers, opiates and muscle relaxants could cause problems like difficulty in walking. Here, we work closely with the rehabilitation and physiotherapy team and keep each other informed on the patient’s medication history to better facilitate their recovery. The nurses will also be alerted especially with high-risk patients and will help the patient safely use the bathroom and such.  

1Twenty80: Is it true that older adults would usually have to take certain medications? How can this be prevented?

Chuah: Until a certain age, most of us will probably be taking one or two types of medication. However, diet and lifestyle is very important. There are no shortcuts in keeping your body healthy but there are preventive measures to take to delay disease onset. 

Quote: There are no shortcuts in keeping your body healthy but there are preventive measures to take to delay disease onset. 

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1Twenty80: What are the important things to note if you are caring for an elderly person with regards to their medication?

Chuah: Pill numbers will increase so keep a clear record of what medication that is needed currently and what medication has been stopped. Be aware and after each follow-up, ask for a copy of the prescription. Pay attention to the drug name, dosage and indications. Here is a summary of things to note when caring for the elderly when it comes to their medications:

  • List of medications
  • Whether medications can be mixed
  • Time to take medication

Most importantly, consult someone such as a medical professional or a pharmacist before giving any supplements.

1Twenty80: What extra precautions can carers take?

Chuah: Find a way to keep dated prescriptions so you will have the most updated one. Additionally, something very important is to not remove the pills from the blister packaging. Cutting the blister packaging is also not advisable because the packaging has the pills’ expiry date. Keep medications in airtight containers and note all of the expiry dates.  

1Twenty80: How do you ensure that your patient sticks to your advice?

Chuah: Set alarms and reminders on your phone for medication feeding and we also give a timetable with clear instructions to the patient for their reference. We also ensure that we give standardised answers in order to make sure that in case the patient forgets or needs a second opinion, if they see another pharmacist, the same answer will be presented. 

Quote: Set alarms and reminders on your phone for medication feeding and we also give a timetable with clear instructions to the patient for their reference.

1Twenty80: What is your advice to our readers when it comes to geriatric medication?

Chuah: I would like to advise patients to separate their medications and keep them based on a system that best works for their lifestyle. For some, they may prefer to have a system of grouping their medications by how many times a day they need to take it, or by type of disease. I would suggest a system such as keeping medications in their blister packaging in separate airtight containers labelled clearly.  

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