Are our seniors medically over-prescribed? The average 65 – 69 year-old fills 13.6 prescriptions per year. Upon reflection, this seems too many. And elders in the age range of 80 – 84 years have an average of 18.2 prescriptions filled annually. No wonder elderly parents have difficulty keeping track of which pill to take, and when?

Taking multiple medications and seeing different doctors can be a prescription for a serious medication problem. I certainly see this evidence with my Mother, who was recently discharged from a stint in the hospital. She was overly medicated. Until we got her to her primary physician, who eliminated 3-4 pills from her regimen, she was completely lethargic and fatigued.

Many seniors visit multiple physicians for their various ailments. Couple this with the physiological changes of aging, which alter the way a body processes and reacts to certain medications, and you can see the potential for disaster.

The fact that seniors are most prone to medication problems is not surprising when you consider that seniors have more chronic diseases and multiple conditions. Certainly, drug development is big business. And our elderly parents may be living much longer than previous generations.

Further compounding the problem is an economic reality: many seniors may not be taking the medications they need because they cannot afford them. In addition to often being on fixed incomes, they spend nearly four times as much on prescription medications as those under the age of 65.

There are a few conflicting, but all to common, drug-to-drug interactions to be aware of. For example, including aspirin with a blood thinner like Coumadin; or certain diabetic medications; antiacids with heart and blood pressure medications; or and antihistamines and antidepressants. Also, be alert to potential problems when mixing certain foods with medications, such as dairy products, caffeine, fruit juices and alcohol.