If the healthcare industry tracked the costs of addressing medication related problems (MRPs) it would be the fourth most costly “disease” after cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. This cost reflects only the direct healthcare costs, those costs paid directly to prescribers, hospitals, rehab/emergency care/ long-term care services and for medications, anything billed or paid for by the healthcare system and consumer.
Another huge cost that remains underappreciated is that of caregiver burden. Caregiver burden is the impact on caregivers, families and loved ones as they support an individual in their move through a series of events that requires more and more time, for example: supervision, complex healthcare decisions, possible moves to the hospital or senior housing and more frequent healthcare services.
So why don’t the individuals using medications or their caregivers realize the problems of medication use? The answer is not simple. There are many reasons. Our nation is only now “growing older” and it is the ever-increasing numbers of seniors or others taking multiple medications who most often experience MRPs.
In previous decades the great majority of individuals did not age past their 60 or 70’s. When they did, many times they were cared for in facilities where staff and consultants focused on the “older patients.” Today, there are many older citizens striving tomaintain independence in their home for a longer period. Many providers throughout the healthcare system currently do not have an extensive track record of caring for large numbers of seniors and, in particular, the “independent seniors.” Healthcare providers are, however, now beginning to connect the experience learned in the concentrated care of the senior in the past years to today’s seniors.