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Dad Is On Too Many Meds



"My father has several serious chronic illnesses. He also sees more than a few specialists for those conditions. Each doctor seems to have prescribed medications for Dad’s problems. 

Dad now takes a handful of medications morning, noon, and night, and when I say handful, I am serious. I can’t help but wonder what the side effects of all those medications are. 

I wonder if I should say something. I don’t want to second guess his doctors, though I suppose that’s exactly what I’m doing. Does one know what the other is doing?

Today I’m seeking your advice about these medications and if I should become involved. Dad is getting up there in years and I’m not sure how many questions he asks."



Navigating healthcare in our complex world is not an easy thing to do. It’s a little bit like trying to fix your own newer model car these days. It’s tough even if the problem is only minor. Everyone needs to ask questions and advocate for themselves.

It is clear from what you’ve written that your father is treating multiple conditions, which is the norm for people in their later years of life. There are so many treatment options these days and those choices are also the reason that some of us are living much longer lives. It’s very likely the reason that your father is still alive. While I don’t know exactly what medications he takes, I believe that at least one of them is prolonging his life.

If your father sees all of his specialists in one system, they are assuredly using one electronic medical record. I do not know of any healthcare group or system that still uses paper. That means that all his doctors can see all the medications that have been prescribed by his other doctors. Even if they’re not in the same system, there is the likelihood that they have access to his entire medication profile. 

Is it possible that he’s over-medicated or that he experiences side effects from his medications? Yes. But do know that the computers we use today in healthcare are powerful and warn doctors of drug interactions. Yes, they can ignore warnings. Doctors are humans. Also, all medications have side effects. Some of the side effects are the desired effects the doctors seek. For instance, aspirin is thought of as a pain killer. A side effect of that medication is preventing the blood from clotting quickly, which helps prevent strokes. 

The point I’m trying to make is that medications are complicated and powerful. It’s important to learn as much as you can about any medication you or your father takes. Asking questions is the best way to advocate for your father if he’s unable to do it for himself. Being a partner with Dad and his doctor is the best way to receive optimal care. Make a list of questions and take them along to his appointments. If after the appointment, you feel uncomfortable, you can always seek a consultation. Some see a gerontologist when there are multiple conditions in an elderly patient. 

Please start by asking questions. Those that get the best care are the patients that have a strong partner by their side.