Medication management and safety represent a common challenge for seniors, especially when they are prescribed multiple medications for different issues. Forgetting to take a medication, mixing-up medicines, or accidentally taking a medication too often, can become dangerous and even fatal.
In fact, this 2016 article revealed that medication-related adverse events (AEs) in general practice are thought to cause as much as 30% of all hospital admissions in older patients, resulting in significant morbidity, mortality, and health care costs.
Other medication management issues can crop up in relation to drug interactions with certain foods or beverages and poor communication or coordination between multiple doctors when treating more than one health condition.
To help make sure you or your loved one are able to stay organized and safe while taking prescribed medication, take a look at these 10 tips for effective elderly medication management.
1. Gather and Review All Medications
The first step in any organizational process is to understand the big picture. Getting all medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, as well as any vitamins or supplements, all together in one place is the best way to begin.
Some seniors might keep some pills in the living room, some in the bathroom, and others in the kitchen or bedroom, for example. While this might seem more convenient from a certain point of view, it also makes it much easier to get mixed up or forget something.
Next, review all the medication labels carefully for instructions on timing, dosage, interactions, and any other information that might be needed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pharmacist or the doctor who prescribed the medication.
2. Make Sure All Medications Are Stored Correctly
Moisture and heat can affect drugs, which means the bathroom cabinet is actually not a good place to store medications. Likewise, some medication requires refrigeration. In general, however, medication should be stored in a cool, dry place out of reach of any curious children or pets. Don’t forget to double-check all expiration dates.
3. Understand Potential Side Effects
This is especially critical when you or your loved one is starting a new medication, but it’s useful to be attentive to side effects even with medications that are not new. Common side effects for seniors can include weight fluctuations, difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, or balance issues. Sometimes, a side effect might go un-noticed, or be misattributed as simply being the result of aging. So even if you aren’t aware of any side effects, it can be a good idea to check in.
4. Create and Maintain a Medication List and Schedule
Having an up-to-date list of everything you or your loved on is taking is not just useful for organization; it’s vital to prevent negative drug interactions. Record the name of each prescription and over-the-counter medication, vitamin, and supplement, as well as the frequency, dosage, purpose, and prescriber for each.
Next, create a daily medication management schedule, a chart showing each medicine, the dosage, and time you must take it. This will give you an easy way to check off each medicine as it’s taken and keep track throughout the day.
5. Pre-Sort Medications For the Week
A great way to organize medications for the week is by using a pill sorter with enough compartments for every dose you’ll take during each day of the week. For example this one, currently priced under $10, has enough compartments for four doses a day, seven days a week.
6. Set Up Reminders
If you have a smartphone, it’s fairly easy to set reminders that will notify you with an alarm when it’s time to take your medications. There are also pill reminder apps that are specifically designed for this purpose. If that sounds too high-tech, you could also use sticky notes, email, or a calendar to remind yourself, or ask for help remembering.
7. Plan Ahead for Refills
Getting prescriptions refilled on time so that you don’t miss a dose is a key part of the medication’s effectiveness. Ask your doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply through a mail-order pharmacy, or set up automatic refills and, if available, delivery service with your pharmacy. If those options aren’t available, just mark your calendar or set a reminder for yourself to get the prescription refilled before it runs out.
8. Fill All Prescriptions at a Single Pharmacy
Using a single pharmacy, rather than picking up medication from multiple locations, decreases confusion and adds another layer of review; your pharmacist will be able to look over your full regimen and provide information about interactions, side effects, and contraindications. If you must use more than one pharmacy for whatever reason, give each pharmacist a complete list of your medications and dosages.
9. Keep Medication Packaging
Although it is advisable to pre-sort your doses weekly, you should keep the rest of the medication in the bottle or tube it came in. This way, the instructions are easy to locate, and you have access to any information from the label that you may need. To avoid confusion, throw away any expired medicine or empty bottles, tubes, or packages.
10. Let Reflections Help
Medication management for seniors can be complex and overwhelming, especially if the treatment involves multiple medications and precise timing of doses. If you don’t think you can handle it on your own, we are happy to offer our help through our Medication Management Services.
When you work with Reflections, a licensed RN will arrange for prescribed medication as ordered by your physicians, while moving toward the goal of safe self-administration. Working closely with your physical and pharmacist, we will help you get the most positive outcomes from your course of treatment.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of experts today.