It is common for seniors to take multiple medications throughout the day, often making it easy to get them mixed up.
78% of seniors take at least one prescription drug, 36% take five or more, and 38% use over-the-counter medications. Seniors need to be aware of the importance of medication management. Avoiding medication mistakes is as simple as following the basics, such as taking the wrong medication, missing doses, or taking more than recommended.
Here are ten tips and tools to help older adults manage their medications safely.
1. Place all medications, vitamins, OTC (over-the-counter) meds, and supplements in one place.
Having medications, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and supplements stored in different locations can make it easy to lose track of them. Older adults keep certain pills in the kitchen, some on the bedside table, and others in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
Adverse drug reactions may still occur when over-the-counter medications are taken along with prescription medications. Keeping everything in one place is a good habit. Ensure that similar prescriptions are not prescribed for the same health condition and dispose of expired medications accordingly.
To stay organized, keep all their current pills together. Everything stays in one place as a result. Keep backup medication supplies or rarely used medications in a separate bin.
2. Ensure that medications are appropriately stored.
It is recommended that medications be stored in a dry environment. Moisture and heat can damage medicines if kept in the bathroom cabinet. Follow your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions for medications that require specific storage, such as refrigeration.
3. Maintain an up-to-date medication list.
It's essential to keep an accurate list of their medications, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications.
Be sure to record:
The name of each prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, vitamin, and supplement
Taking each item regularly
How much of each item should be taken
Prescription medications prescribed by a healthcare provider
The purpose of each item and the symptoms it is supposed to treat
Whether each item is intended for short-term or long-term use
4. Sort the week's medications in advance.
Medication management for seniors requires staying organized. Your older adult can pre-sort their medications for the week using a pill organizer. A pill organizer with enough compartments for all of the doses your older adult will need throughout the day is the best type for them. For example, there are ones that have 28 compartments - four daily doses for seven days.
You may want to split pills ahead of time and include the halves in the pill organizer compartments if needed. As a result, your older adult won't have to worry about fumbling with a pill cutter or remembering to split pills.
5. Check for harmful drug interactions twice.
Many older adults take multiple medications, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, or supplements. Because of that, it's essential to double-check that they won't interact negatively.
Utilize an online drug interaction checker to ensure the doctor or pharmacist got all interactions. If any interactions are found, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately (don't make any changes on your own).
6. Ensure medication instructions are clear.
Follow the doctor's instructions when taking medications. In this way, the risk of adverse drug interactions, side effects, or reduced drug effectiveness is minimized. You and your older adult must understand which medications can be taken together and which should be spaced out.
A full stomach is required for some medications, while an empty stomach is necessary for others. If you need clarification, ask your doctor for explanations and detailed instructions. Their job is to ensure that the medications improve health, and that can only happen if they are taken as directed.
7. Establish a system for tracking and reminding loved ones about their medications.
Taking so many medications can be challenging for seniors and caregivers. You can help your older adult remember to take the correct medicines at the right time by setting up a medication reminder system.
Taking notes with a pen and paper is a simple way to keep track of medications taken. A simple chart could list the medication name, dose, day, and time of day. When your older adult takes an amount, mark it with a checkmark or X. Filling out a chart will ensure that every dose has been noticed. Now you won't have to wonder if you've already taken your morning dose.
Reminders can also help you remember when it's time to take medicine. Setting a series of alarms on a mobile phone can be helpful for some older adults. Tech-savvy people might find a medication management app useful. It is possible to use a basic alarm clock for your older adult if he or she is not tech-savvy and only takes a few daily doses.
Certain medications are taken with certain meals by some people. It is easier for them to remember when to take which pills if they keep a routine.
8. Be aware of the possible side effects of medications.
Each medication has potential side effects and drug interactions. You can watch for health changes after your older adult starts a new medication, increases the dose, or combines medications differently.
Do not hesitate to contact their doctor if you notice any changes or problems. Side effects include increased fall risk, upset stomach, pain, and weakness. There are even some side effects that may mimic other health conditions, such as dementia.
9. Medication assistance for seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia.
You may need to help your older adult with their medication if they seem confused about their medicine or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia. Due to their cognitive impairment, a reminder system may not be sufficient. They could also suffer serious health consequences if they take medications incorrectly.
10. Refill medications in advance.
Timely refills are vital for long-term prescription medications to stay within the doses. You may be able to get a 90-day supply from your doctor through a mail-order pharmacy. Your medication will be mailed to you, so you will only need to order it periodically.
Several pharmacies also offer automatic refills and will notify you when the prescription is ready for pickup. Also, pharmacies offer free prescription delivery services, so you don't have to pick them up.
Not all medications can be dispensed or delivered by online pharmacies. Before switching services, ensure your older adult's medications are covered. Remember to order a refill and pick it up before your older adult runs out by marking the refill dates on your calendar.
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