While many seniors commonly take multiple medications throughout the day at specific times, it’s easy for them to mix them up or simply forget to take them. In fact, statistics have shown the following:
- 87% of seniors take prescription medications
- 36% take 5 or more prescription medications
- 38% use over-the-counter medication
It’s crucial for your elderly loved one to take all of their medications on time to maintain their health and/or manage their symptoms. This is exactly why medication management is necessary.
Simply setting a routine, or system, can prevent common medication errors such as missing doses, taking more than the prescribed amount, or taking the wrong medication.
Here are 10 tips to help you manage your elderly loved one’s medication.
1. Combine all vitamins, OTC medications, and supplements into one area.
It’s easy to forget where prescribed medications are located if they’re stored throughout the house. As some medications are to be taken with food, some may be stored in the kitchen. Others that are to be taken before bed may be stored on a nightstand, and others in the bathroom.
But it’s best to keep all medications in one place. This way you can see which medications are being taken and similar prescriptions are not taken for the same health condition. You can also see if any medications have expired.
To stay organized and safe, keep all current pill bottles and packages in a clear plastic bin to keep everything together. You can also use another bin for a backup medication supply or for medications that are not taken on a regular basis.
2. Ensure that medication is properly stored.
Medications should usually be stored in a cool, dry place. A place like the bathroom isn’t the best for them as they can be affected by moisture and heat.
But some medications require that they be stored in cool areas, like the refrigerator. Be sure to read the instructions on the bottle.
Remember to also keep all medications away from children and pets.
3. Create and maintain and updated medication inventory.
To prevent drugs from counteracting or creating harmful combinations, be sure to record each of the medications your loved one is taking. This includes all vitamins, supplements, OTC medications, and others.
The inventory should include the following categories:
- Names of each medication
- How often they are taken
- The dosage of each medication
- The healthcare prescriber
- The purpose of the medication and which symptoms they treat
- Short vs. long-term use
4. Sort Medications for the week.
It’s crucial for seniors to stay organized, especially when it comes to their medications. Items like pill organizers are the perfect resource to do this.
The best pill organizers are those with enough compartments that hold enough pills for each dose they need throughout the day. This will be those with 28 total compartments: 4 doses of medication for each day of the 7-day week.
It would also be a good idea to split any pills ahead of time, if necessary, and include the halves in the pill compartments. This way your loved one won’t forget to cut them in half before taking them or fumble with a pill cutter.
5. Triple check for negative drug interactions.
While many older adults take a variety of medications, vitamins, and supplements, it’s crucial to triple check if any may cause negative drug interactions.
To prevent this from happening, you can double check with your doctor or pharmacist, or use an online drug interaction checker. If you do find any issues, call their doctor or pharmacist right away for advice.
6. Ensure that all drug instructions are understood.
Following the doctor’s medication instructions is very important to maintain a healthy condition. This will prevent or minimize any symptoms, side effects, drug interactions, or possibly reduce the drug’s effectiveness.
Ensure that you and your elderly loved one understand which medications are safe to take at the same times and others that must be taken separately. This includes those that must be taken on a full stomach vs. others on an empty stomach.
Be sure to ask the doctor any questions or further instructions if you are unsure.
7. Create medication tracking system and reminders.
Medication reminder systems and tracking logs will help your loved one stay organized and record the dates and times of the medications. Simply create a chart that includes the medication name, dose, day, and time. When your loved one takes the dose, they mark the chart with an X.
This will prevent any doses from being missed.
There are also convenient reminder systems, such as the following:
- Setting alarms on their phone
- Downloading a medication management app
- Setting a basic alarm clock
- Keeping a habit to take medications with certain meals
8. Understand the likely side effects of medications.
Discussing the potential side effects of your elderly loved one’s medications is important. This keeps both of you aware of any health changes if there was a change in the medication dose, a new medication is started, or new combinations of medications are taken.
If you notice any pain or issues with the new routine, be sure to inform the doctor right away. Common side effects include:
- Increased risk for falls
- Pain and weakness
- Upset stomach
Some side effects may even mimic other health conditions, such as dementia.
9. Assist Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with their medications.
If your elderly loved one has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they will most likely need help with their medication. The cognitive impairment refers to the fact that they may not be able to follow a reminder system. Taking medications improperly can cause serious harm to their health.
10. Plan ahead for medication refills.
It’s crucial to get refills for medications on time to prevent any doses from being missed, especially with long-term prescription medications.
A convenient solution would be to request a 90-day supply through a mail-order pharmacy. This way you won’t need to pick up the medication and request a refill once every few months.
Some pharmacies also offer automatic refills and will notify you through text or a call if a prescription is ready to be picked up. Others have prescription drug delivery services, so you don’t have to pick them up.
Other online pharmacies include Phil and PillPack that will coordinate with you and deliver the medication. On the other hand, they cannot dispense Schedule II drugs like opiates, codeine, oxycodone.
Get Medication Reminders from a Caregiver
As it’s very important to help your loved one manage their medications, there are many ways that it can be done. But many seniors’ adult children cannot be physically present with them all the time.
While it’s important to have someone help your loved one take their medication, being there for them can be difficult. The elderly care services provided by Assisting Hands Home Care include medication reminders.
In addition to transportation to and from the doctor and pharmacy, our caregivers will help your loved keep their medications organized and remind them to take it at the times needed. They can also provide meal preparation services for when your loved one must take their medication with a meal.