Patient profile: Karen (92) takes 10 medications every day

Karen says she didn’t have any substantial medication reviews in the past five years

Karen’s adult daughters believe a change in medication has resulted in their mother becoming physically stronger and more mentally alert. Photograph: iStock

Karen’s adult daughters believe a change in medication has resulted in their mother becoming physically stronger and more mentally alert. Photograph: iStock

 

Karen (92) says she enjoyed excellent health until the age of 80 or so. “I ate and exercised well. I always walked a lot and I believe in the idea of “all things in moderation”, she says.

About eight years ago, she discovered that she had diabetes. “I had begun to experience dizzy spells when out walking and got a blood test at a mobile testing unit,” she explains. Since then, she has been on medication for type 2 diabetes (Metformin and Novomix).

However, it was only after the death of her husband five years ago that Karen’s health began to decline. About three years ago, she had a heart attack and had stents put in place following this. She was prescribed blood-thinning medicines (Aspirin) for about a year, following this surgery, and remains on them. She also takes medication for blood pressure (Bisoprolol, Furosemide and Ramipril) and medication to reduce cholesterol (Astorvastatin).

More recently, she has become quite unsteady on her feet and fallen a few times so she takes a calcium food supplement (Calcichew) to help improve her bone density. She also takes tablets to reduce indigestion (Lansoprazole) and prevent constipation (Lactulose).

So, in total, Karen now takes 10 medications each day, not including sleeping tablets or extra pain relievers for arthritis in her shoulder. She says she hasn’t had any substantial reviews of her medications in the past five years.

In April, 2016, due to decreased mobility, Karen moved into a nursing home. In July, she became seriously ill with a chest infection and was hospitalised. During her stay in hospital, she had another mild heart attack.

While recuperating in hospital, she had a medicines review and her medication for type 2 diabetes was changed from insulin tablets to an insulin injection twice a day.

Her adult daughters believe this change in medication has resulted in their mother becoming physically stronger and more mentally alert. “Before this time, we felt every time she became ill, she was a little bit worse afterwards. But, this time, she is much better. She is able to go to the bathroom herself and can get in and out of the car more easily,” says one of her daughters, Sophie. “She is also much less drowsy and has better concentration; she is able to chat on the phone and read the newspaper again.”

The nurses in the nursing home believe that recovering from her recent serious illness and a new-found appreciation of her comfortable surroundings has also contributed.

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee.

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