Long Term Care

Continuing Care

What’s this project all about?

The heart of the project is really about providing the best possible care for the frail elderly, living in long term care facilities.    

We know that caring for the frail elderly can be complex. Many have multiple health issues-and as a result, are often prescribed multiple medications. Taking more medications  than necessary is known as polypharmacy. 

We know that as people age and accumulate multiple health conditions, the more frail they become. With increased frailty, the more likely they are to have negative outcomes when taking multiple medications. 

This project helps health professionals manage these medications.  A toolkit has been developed which recognizes some of the unique challenges when prescribing medications for the frail elderly who  have chronic diseases. The focus is really looking at the risk/benefits of medication for the frail elderly, because the fact is, our health, and health needs, change as we age and become more frail.

So does this toolkit work?

For many health professionals, frailty is not something that is widely recognized. Traditional guidelines regarding medications are used without factoring in how frailty will impact the health of the elderly. Studies have demonstrated that 60 per cent of medications can be removed from frail, older adults with no negative impact.  In fact, by removing some medications, the risk of harm and adverse effects from multiple medications is reduced and quality of life is enhanced.

How can you safely remove medication, after all it was prescribed for a reason?

We’re learning more every day about caring for the frail elderly. New research shows that seniors may have already received the benefits from the medications they are taking . Taking multiple medications, especially if no longer required, can result in adverse effects. As we age and become increasingly frail, some drugs may cause more harm than benefit.

Why focus on those living in long term care facilities?

We are starting here for a few reasons. Nova Scotia has one of the oldest populations in Canada and the average length of stay in one of Nova Scotia’s 93 nursing homes is 2.9 years. We know that 13 per cent of these residents are taking 10 or more medications.    Reducing these medications can benefit the resident and reduce the risk of unintended adverse drug effects. We have a responsibility to ensure medications are used appropriately. The toolkit helps health providers  understand the importance of appropriate prescribing for the frail elderly.

What is frailty? Why are we just learning about this now?

With an aging population, it's more important than ever to truly understand the unique health challenges of the frail elderly. Frailty means decreasing function, mobility, cognitive abilities or a combination of one or more.  This project helps health professionals ensure that necessary medications are  provided while avoiding the adverse effects that can cause more harm than good when unnecessary medications are continued.  

So is this really about saving money?

This is about enhancing the quality of life for the frail elderly. The focus is on a common approach to addressing frailty, and seeing the whole person. Health professionals will have an accessible resource to help them determine how best to manage medications among this population, and family members can be assured that their loved ones are receiving the best possible care.

Shouldn’t health professionals have this information anyway, why do they need a tool kit?

Caring for the frail elderly can be complex. It's important to provide the tools needed so that health professionals are able to provide the compassionate care they always have.

So are you evaluating the impact of this project?

Yes.We want to carefully monitor and evaluate our results, so we can continue to learn about caring for this important age group.