Dr. Douglas Fronzaglia: Are you taking unnecessary medications? A geriatrician can help tell

This article first appeared online at GoErie.com on Oct. 23, 2022.

Many older patients consume enough medications each day to create an entire meal. These are commonly started in middle age for prevention or treatment of disease.

As patients age, however, these medications may not be as effective or necessary, and in some cases, may even be harmful.

The goal of medications is to prevent or treat disease, so that you can age and still maintain your desired quality of life. As you age, though, the side effects of medications can increase in frequency and power.

Medication side effects may present as mild constipation, dry mouth, heartburn, stomach pain, dizziness, muscle aches, nosebleeds, bruising or insomnia. It takes experience and knowledge to determine which medications could be the culprit, and how to pivot to a proper plan.

Most specialists rely on geriatricians because specialists see you only once every six to 12 months. They provide you the best care in their field, based on the latest and best evidence, but that evidence doesn’t usually include older patients.

Through extensive conversations, geriatricians strive to really get to know you and understand your finances, health goals, home life, family support, medical history and your ability to take care of yourself.

Once this picture of you is formulated, geriatricians can help optimize your medication list. This does not always mean stopping medications; it may be finding a better, more tailored option.

For example, an equal but less expensive alternative may be available if you do not have health insurance, or if you have a terminal illness and wish to stop all treatment.

Pain, which is an unfortunate symptom of aging, often dictates your medication list. Pain control can be straightforward for mild joint aches, and even moderate pain is manageable without narcotics.

Spinal disease is also very common, but can be more difficult to treat. Orthopedic, neurosurgical and manipulation specialists can be employed for both curative and adjunctive treatment.

Narcotics are not dangerous if prescribed, used and monitored properly. Under the care of an experienced physician, they are safe and effective, and may be the only way to maintain a reasonable quality of life.

Some geriatricians can even certify patients for medical marijuana, which can be very effective for pain control.

In recent years, the opioid epidemic has made access to narcotics very burdensome to those who have a legitimate need. It has also terrified some into refusing optimal pain control. In other cases, the pharmacies will restrict access to pain medications without cause.

Working with all other specialties, geriatricians optimize the care and management of older adults in all care settings. Geriatricians put you on the path to wellness and help maintain your best quality of life.

Dr. Douglas Fronzaglia is a geriatrician and internal medicine physician at the LECOM Institute for Successful Aging – Schaper Ave.

Dr. Douglas Fronzaglia

Call (814) 866-2311 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Douglas Fronzaglia.