Life expectancy is increasing both at birth and over the course of a person’s life, meaning that the proportion of older people is increasing.
This is highlighted by the fact that according to the Council on the Ageing (COTA) at present the 70-plus age groups account for about 10 per cent of our population but by 2050 this is expected to increase to about 20 per cent of the Australian population.
Overall, older Australians are accounting for an increasing share of the population. In 2013, 14 per cent of the population (3.3 million people) was aged 65 and over and 1.9 per cent was aged 85 and over (439,600 people). By 2053, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) medium-level growth assumptions, 21 per cent of the population will be aged 65 and over (8.3 million people) and 4.2 per cent aged 85 and over (1.6 million people).
Living longer is generally a good thing and thanks to medicines our quality of life, when we are older, is also improving. However, this has resulted in the oldest 10 per cent of the population using more than 20 per cent of all prescribed medicines.
One reason for this is that as we get older we are more likely to have one or more health conditions or multimorbidities. According to a report, Multiple Chronic Health Conditions in Older People – Implications for Health Policy Planning, Practitioners and Patients, multimorbidities is increasing and current estimates are that 40 per cent of Australian adults have three or more chronic conditions, a four-fold rise since the 1980s. This of course means we are taking more medicines to manage these illnesses.
But with this increased medicine usage comes a responsibility to take the medicines properly and as we get older we have to be more careful about how we take our medicines.
Medication-related problems can result in harm. Use of potentially inappropriate medicines is associated with increased hospitalisation, higher mean numbers of inpatient, outpatient and emergency department visits, poorer self-reported health and death.
Australian data suggests one in three unplanned hospital admissions in the older population are medication-related.
Further, the increasing use of medicines associated with the increasing prevalence of chronic disease appears to be increasing the prevalence of medication-related problems.
Many of the medication-related problems are preventable and a systematic review of adverse drug events in the community estimated 21 per cent were preventable. Studies of medication-related problems provide higher estimates of preventability, ranging from 40 per cent to 80 per cent.
Studies of medication-related hospitalisations suggest between one-quarter and three-quarters may be preventable if appropriate primary care is received.
A key factor in helping to prevent some of these hospitalisations is to talk to your community pharmacist about your medicines regimen and the medicines you are taking. There are a number of services that your pharmacist may offer you to help you manage your medicines:
A MedsCheck is an in-pharmacy medicine review between you, your carer (if you choose) and your pharmacist that is focused on education and self-management. The service is aimed to identify problems that you may be experiencing with your medicines, help you learn more about your medicines, improve your effective use of medicines and provide education on how best to store your medicines.
Dose Administration Aid (DAA)
A DAA is a regularly filled compartmentalised box used to aid the administration of medicines. The DAA is checked by the pharmacist who must comply with the relevant guidelines and standards.
Prescription Reminder Service
A service that enables the pharmacy to contact you, either via phone, SMS or email to remind you to have your prescriptions filled so don’t run out of your medicines
Keep your prescriptions safe
Your pharmacy can safely store your prescriptions and repeats for your convenience, allowing you to request your prescriptions be filled ahead of time and ready for you at the pharmacy to collect. The pharmacist can remind you to visit your doctor when you are due for a prescription renewal and manage your Safety Net and tax records.
Your community pharmacist is the medicines expert.