Michael Bratt has witnessed first-hand the sometimes fatal implications of seniors being over-medicated.
And as the owner of Healthy At Home Senior Care in Kelowna, he is trying to encourage seniors to have yearly medication reviews by a pharmacist to potentially reduce the dosages of prescription pills the elderly are taking perhaps unnecessarily.
Provincial health policy dictate that annual medication reviews can be done by local pharmacists at no charge as long as the seniors is a B.C. resident and on at least five medications. The $80 fee is paid by health authorities.
If necessary, Bratt will also hook up seniors with a pharmacist at no cost to help facilitate the medication review gets done.
“There is a general sense that seniors are often over-medicated, but the question is who is watching? That responsibility lays with the individual, and in the case of seniors that can in turn fall on the family, and secondly their doctor if they have one,” said Bratt, a veterinarian in the Lower Mainland who came to the Okanagan to start his business.
Bratt said often seniors don’t question the doctor, but in reality pharmacists have the best knowledge about a prescription, the potential side-affects coupled with other medication being taken and the proper dosage.
He said another over-prescription example is seniors on anti-depressants, where that depression might be derived from loneliness or feeling isolated.
“Taking a pill isn’t always necessary in all options. Sometimes providing some companionship or going to Tim Hortons for a regular coffee is what people really need.”
Bratt said his company, which has built up 300 clients and 40 staff since starting the business just under four years ago, provides in-home senior care to help clients remain independent at home or in their retirement community residence by assisting with daily living needs.
He said when doctors are burned out and government home health services are stretched, checking to make sure medications are being taken on time and household services are looked after on a regular schedule by the same person can off-set the stress on families trying to care for their elderly parents.
Bratt cited the example of a senior couple who moved from Alberta to a seniors’ residence in Kelowna.
The first night here, her husband fell and suffered a head injury and ultimately died. Meanwhile, she was on 17 different medications leaving her so sedated that four weeks later she nodded off on the sofa, fell and broke her ankle.
Bratt helped her to find a doctor who ordered a medication review that resulted in her dropping some of the prescriptions she was taking.
“She admitted she felt like a zombie on all those medications. That was two and a half years ago. Today she lives at The Dorchester and helps run the library and in-house store, and she handles the open house sign-ins.
“Now she has a fulfilling life because she has reduced or is getting the proper dosage for her medication. We went from having a $3,000 month client we visited four times a day to zero, but I don’t care. I would so the same thing for anyone if it will help out.”
Bratt said the health care system is broken because the continuum of care is disconnected, particularly when it comes to prescribing medication for patients from different medical sources, whether it be a doctor, ER physician or walk-in clinic.
“That problem is so rampant in the system…any family has to make sure seniors are looked after and are taking both the appropriate drugs and at the correct dosage.”
And that disconnect is going to keep being amplified as a shortage of general practitioner doctors persists and the seniors’ share of the population across the Okanagan continues to increase.
“About 20 per cent of the population in the Okanagan is 65 or older, and that is expected to rise to 25 per cent by 2025. This region attracts people here to retire,” he said.
For more information about how to seek assistance from Healthy At Home to arrange a medication review, check out their website www.healthyathomeseniorcare.com.