Every day, Judy Renik opens a bag of pills — medication she needs every day to survive, and she takes a lot of them.
She says she used to take even more pills, and it was having a debilitating effect on her day-to-day existence.
“Oh, I was zoned right out,” said Renik.
Enter Michael Bratt, an advocate for seniors.
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After witnessing his mother go downhill after being over-medicated, Bratt decided to make helping seniors his business. He remembers when he first met Renik.
“She couldn’t take any of her own meds,” said Bratt of Healthy at Home Seniors Care. “She didn’t know what time of day it was.”
And seniors take a lot of drugs. Statistics show that three out of 10 seniors between the ages of 65 and 79 are taking at least five medications at a time.
“Occasionally, we may use them over-zealously,” said Dr. Willy Mackle.
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Bratt sought out the services of Mackle, who admits that prescribing drugs is not a perfect science.
“The more medications we use, the more likely they are likely to interact with each other,” said Mackle. “And it’s those interactions that can be more harmful than the actual individual medications on their own.”
“The seniors are going into walk-in clinics. The walk-in clinics don’t have the database of information and nobody’s connected,” said Bratt. “So there’s a breakdown in the information given, and a lot of these seniors are too sedated to be able to give good histories and as a result, because of time, the doctors just give them another pill.”
And that’s exactly what happened to Renik.
“Having one doctor and then having a specialist and everything just got loaded without either one talking to each other,” said Renik.
Renik’s current physician is Mackle, who has adjusted her prescriptions to the point where she can now resume a normal life.
“I’m a different person,” said Renik. “Yeah, totally.”
Bratt says he would like to see yearly medication reviews become mandatory in B.C., but realizes that with a doctors shortage in the province, that’s going to be a long shot. But he would be happy with changing just one life at a time, the way he helped Renik.