Older Adults:Managing Medications

Older adults use more medicines, including prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements than any other age groupthats 34 percent of all prescription drug use nationwide.

This means that your senior loved ones most likely take a cornucopia of medications, vitamins and supplements. Keeping these medications straight and organized is vitally important to making sure that your loved one remains healthy.

Older adults have a higher risk of serious adverse drug effects, including falls, depression, confusion, hallucinations, and malnutrition, which can lead to illness, hospitalization, and death. Many times these adverse drug effects are because of human error and poor medical management.

These errors dont have to happen. In fact, keeping your loved ones medications straight can be done in a number of simple steps.

According to the National Council on Patient Information and Education, it is most important to know your loved ones medications inside and out. Both you and your loved one need to be well educated, as nearly 40 percent of older adults are unable to read a prescription label and 76 percent are unable to understand the information that is given to them.

Know all the names and possible side effects of the prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements with the dosage instructions. Create a list of all medications your loved one takes and bring it to all doctor appointments and update it as needed. It is a good idea for the caregiver and close relatives to have this list too in case of an emergency.

Encourage your loved one to talk to their doctor. Dont be afraid to ask the physician exactly what any new prescription being prescribed if for and to review possible side effects. Inquire about possible non-pharmacological treatments too because its a good idea to minimize the amount of pills your loved one has to take. This reduces the chances of misusing medicines and inciting side effects or complications.

Be certain that the physician is reviewing and adjusting the medications and dosage amounts based on age-related changes in body weight, reductions in liver and kidney function, loss of body fluid and more fatty tissue. Any one of these factors can affect the way drugs work.

The pharmacist is another great resource. Try to go to the same pharmacy for all medications. The pharmacist can also check the medicines for potential drug interactions. Many pharmacies now offer easy, automatic refills and will give a reminder call to the patient.

Keeping medicines in a cool, dry, visible and easily accessible site is paramount. Steam, moisture and heat can damage medications, so the bathroom, or near the stove are not good places to keep them. Pillboxes with labeled compartments for each day of the week are the best method for organizing treatments. Talk to your loved one about what system would work best for him or her.

Caregivers should always be alert for clues in their loved ones home to tell if the medications are being used properly. Check to see if there are medicines that are not completed and make sure that your loved one uses his or her medicine until it is gone or until the doctor recommends to stop taking it. Make sure your loved one keeps up refills on schedule, and that he or she isnt hoarding pills.

Reference: National Council on Patient Information and Education

Source: The Benjamin Rose Institute Cleveland, Oh