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J Gerontol Nurs. 2005 Sep;31(9):4-11.

Health outcomes and polypharmacy in elderly individuals: an integrated literature review.

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Partners Home Care, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.


The purpose of this integrated literature review was to determine the extent of research available related to polypharmacy and its effect on the health outcomes of the elderly population. A search of the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature and Medline was conducted for studies published between 1995 and 2003 that linked polypharmacy and outcomes in the elderly population. The 16 studies in this integrative literature review were conducted in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Polypharmacy was shown to be a statistically significant predictor of hospitalization, nursing home placement, death, hypoglycemia, fractures, impaired mobility, pneumonia, and malnutrition. The effect of polypharmacy on elderly individuals is significant as demonstrated by this literature review. Nurses are in a unique position to monitor and potentially eliminate adverse effects of a complex medication regimen. Nursing research on polypharmacy and its effects on nursing-sensitive outcomes will help define guidelines for prevention and intervention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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