It seems to Alice that each time she goes to the doctor she is given a new prescription for another ailment. At 85, she knows that she needs some of these pills but doubts she needs all of them. There are so many pill bottles on her counter now with differing doses, combinations and times of day. It not only confuses Alice, but also causes her stress that she knows is not good for her health. Some days Alice just chooses not to take her medication at all.
We live longer than at any time in history, and achieving a healthier, longer life often requires healthcare interventions like vitamins, supplements and prescription medications prescribed by a healthcare professional. If one has a serious illness, multiple medications may be prescribed. It can be difficult at any age to manage prescriptions and organize a medication regime, but for older adults, the largest users of prescription medications, age-related physical and cognitive decline can make medication management that much more difficult. And, properly managing medications is critical to ensure their health and safety. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states: “It is not only the number of medications but also the number of doses per day and actions related to taking medications that contribute to complexity of a medication regimen.”
How to Properly Manage Prescriptions and Other Medications
Below are some medication management tips seniors and their caregivers can utilize to avoid serious complications:
Create a Checklist
Make a checklist of daily medications and keep a copy of where your medications are stored. Carry a copy in your purse or wallet, and leave a copy with someone close to you. Update the list every time you are prescribed a new medicine. A checklist should include the name of the medicine, what it is used for, the name of the prescribing doctor, the dose, and a description of what the medication looks like.
Review your medication list with your doctor at each visit, and bring the actual bottles with you. Ask about any possible drug interactions. Talk to your doctor before you take over-the-counter medications that may interact with your prescriptions, including vitamins and other dietary supplements.
Keep medicines in a cool, dry place within easy reach. To better manage prescriptions, organize medications in multi-day dispensers. Use a timer or voice reminder messaging to ensure that medication is taken at the appropriate intervals. Notate refill dates on a calendar for easy reference. There are software applications that can help organize one’s medicines like Medicine Tracker.
Another great medication management tip is to use the same pharmacy to fill all your prescriptions so a record of all medications will be located together. Plus, the pharmacist is a great resource. Ask your pharmacist the correct way to store your medication. For instance, some may need to be refrigerated. Use auto refill features and schedule refills early so you won’t run out of medications.
Take medication as prescribed. Keep a record of any side effects or symptom changes while using the prescribed medications. Do not stop taking medications unless instructed to by your doctor.
It’s also important to keep medications out of reach of any children. This is especially vital because easy open caps for seniors do not have the safety features to protect children.
Beware of medication deemed unsafe for the elderly. A list of these medication can be found at the American Geriatrics Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults.
Caregivers should learn how to recognize signs that an elder is having difficulty managing, or choosing not to take, their medications.
- Confusion or forgetfulness about whether or not they have taken their medications.
- Unused medication or refills uncollected.
- Lack of understanding of their medications and why they are taking them.
- Fear of taking medication.
- Physical, mental or emotional side effects, new symptoms or discomfort.
The NCBI also reports that “Nonadherence to medication regimens is a major cause of nursing home placement of frail older adults.”
Medication Management for Seniors at Green Hill
Older adults who live alone have been found to be more prone to medication errors than those who live in a senior community. When an elder cannot manage their medications properly it is a clear sign that a communal support setting is necessary. Green Hill, a continuing care retirement community for seniors, provides medication support services at every living level including Independent Living and Assisted Living. Green Hill facilitates medication orders for residents from a selected partnering pharmacy. Medication is safely stored and dispensed to residents as prescribed by their physicians. Green Hill provides on-going medication and side effects monitoring, medication assistance and reminders for residents who self-medicate. Complete prescription and over the counter medication records are regularly reviewed, updated and kept on file for each resident.
To learn more about the lifestyle and residential options available at Green Hill, please contact us today.