Judith Maxwell: A Resident Speaks Out

A Resident Speaks Out

My name is Judith Maxwell and today I am happily living with my husband and little dog Tiffany in one of the comfortable and spacious Garden Homes at “Royal Gardens” retirement residence. The last seven years of my life have not been easy, and I would like to tell you my story.

Seven years ago I was busy with my family, traveling, teaching music, art, and playing in five swing and jazz bands. In July 2008, all of that changed, and I found myself surviving undiagnosed and sometimes life threatening, serious Adverse Reactions to medications. My reactions were an Atrial Fibrillation type of attack, confusion, disorientation, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and loss of balance, mobility etc. These undiagnosed reactions meant regular visits to the hospital emergency departments. Confusion and loss of balance caused several falls, with back and knee injuries, and I needed a walker.

During that time, my reactions were serious enough for me to give up my driving, travel, art and music. I moved to Peterborough to be near my family but missed my busy happy life. I felt isolated and depressed. During the seven years, I saw 22-plus physicians, and specialists. Additional testing ruled out MS, ALS and Parkinson’s but I was no closer to a diagnosis.


In year 7 with some serious research and help from my pharmacist, I felt that my sensitivity to prescription medications may be causing the reactions. In year 8 my cardiologist confirmed that the Atrial Fibrillation attacks may indeed be caused by my intolerance to medications. With this knowledge and some more research, I now know that I suffered from Polypharmacy, (4 or more medications used on a daily basis) and Prescribed Cascading caused by the reactions to multiple drugs. My medications have been slowly reduced, and I am now back to participating in life.

polypharmacyI am very happy living in one of the AON Communities as I know that their healthcare professionals are there if I need them. I participate in the exercise and swimming programs, and have joined the art and the chess clubs. I look forward to enjoying many fun years here with my husband.

PATIENT Podcast - Season 2

Developed for Canadian Patient Safety Week, the PATIENT podcast series explores medication safety through a nonfiction medical drama about the people trying to fix modern healthcare fr​​om the inside out.

The second season of PATIENT will focus on medication safety and the dangers of multiple medications. Be sure you and your staff listen to these informative podcasts by going to www.patientpodcastcanada.com during CPSW.

"When Judith Maxwell’s body began failing her, she started keeping a record in the hope that somewhere inside she’d find the answer. In the first of a three-part series, we dive into those notes, and find out how a retired school teacher developed a medical condition that kept doctors guessing for close to a decade."

5 Questions
to Ask About
Your Medications

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What is Polypharmacy?

The concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient to treat usually coexisting conditions and which may result in adverse drug interactions.

Below is a helpful video that can help you with asking the appropriate questions about the medication you are taking.

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Mrs. Archibald’s Story

Recommended by Judith, this informative and potentially relatable article follows Mrs. Archibald and her family’s journey through Polypharmacy. Full of helpful information, this article can help you better understand Polypharmacy, and guide you through the steps of identifying the reactions and the process to take in reducing it. Reprinted by permission from the Pharmacy Practice+ Magazine.

pdf iconPolypharmacy: Optimizing Medication use in Elderly Patients

Helpful Linkspill icon

The Institute of Safe Medication Practices website is a helpful resource full of articles and self-assessments as well as upcoming information sessions put on by ISMP to help you and your family better understand the medications that you are taking.

The Institute of Safe Medication Practices

Safe Medication Use is another helpful website that allows consumers to better understand medication and help prevent harmful medication incidents. It is supported by Health Canada. This website includes safety tools and resources, along with newsletters you can sign up for that will keep you up to date about medications. This website also gives you the power to report an incident of adverse reactions to medications to better help Health Canada collect and report these incidents.