Polypharmacy in the older population is increasing—and can be harmful. It can be safe to reduce or carefully cease medicines (deprescribing) but a collaborative approach between patient and doctor is required. This study explores decision-making about polypharmacy with older adults and their companions.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 older people (aged 75+ years, taking multiple medicines) and 15 companions. Framework analysis was used to identify qualitative themes.
Participants varied considerably in attitudes towards medicines, preferences for involvement in decision-making, and openness to deprescribing. Three types were identified. Type 1 held positive attitudes towards medicines, and preferred to leave decisions to their doctor. Type 2 voiced ambivalent attitudes towards medicines, preferred a proactive role, and were open to deprescribing. Type 3 were frail, perceived they lacked knowledge about medicines, and deferred most decisions to their doctor or companion.
This study provides a novel typology to describe differences between older people who are happy to take multiple medicines, and those who are open to deprescribing. To enable shared decision-making, prescribers need to adapt their communication about polypharmacy based on their patients’ attitudes to medicines and preferences for involvement in decisions.