33% of the elderly population (aged 75-85) takes 5 or more prescription pills a day. That is in addition to any over-the-counter medication the individual may be taking. All of this can add up to a potentially dangerous situation requiring caregivers and loved ones to prudently monitor and help manage medications to prevent complications.
Medication mismanagement can take various forms. Alarmingly, 30% of hospital admissions for people aged 65+ are a result of medication errors – missed doses, overdoses, or adverse reactions due to combining different medicines.
We can’t fault seniors either for these errors. Poor eyesight makes it simple to misread the labels on pill bottles. Memory problems add to the difficulties causing some elderly individuals to forget how many pills they took and when they took them.
Caregivers and loved ones can play a critical role helping with these difficulties. Let’s take a look at some of the ways we can help.
Tips for Managing Medication:
Know the Meds – The most important factors to understand related to medications are dosage instructions and interactions between different prescriptions. As caregivers, we have to know what pills are supposed to be taken with meals or with water. All the little factors add up to have significance when multiple medications are in play highlighting the importance of knowing the details of all medications.
Get Organized – As caregivers, we are dependent on systems and routines to help them get through the day. They are, perhaps, most vital when it comes to managing medication. Checklists of what pills were taken and when are always useful and help with forgetfulness (when we have 30 other things on the go). Pill organizers help simplify things as well. They are inexpensive and save time. They are invaluable for seniors who want to remain a little more independent and like to do things on their own. Finally, it is always helpful to ask your pharmacist to provide your medicine in large, easy-to open containers with large-print labels. If you know they are on the move constantly, get them a pouch that they can put on a walker or wheelchair to keep the pills in.
Make Time – Create a schedule and stick to it. If you need helpful reminders place them around the house. They could be as easy as a list on the door of the fridge of what to take when. They could be on the box of cereal they have every morning. I simple sticky note saying to have a certain pill with this meal. Look for their habits and routines and work the medication in with it. If an alarm of some sort is needed make sure it’s in an easy to reach place and make it clear what the alarm is for, so as not to cause an actual alarm from your loved one.
Ask Questions –
- When to stop taking medication? – Just because you are feeling better, doesn’t mean it is okay to stop. Explain to them the importance of taking the medication until it’s gone. Just because symptoms are going away, doesn’t mean the actual problem or virus is.
- How to store the meds? – In the fridge or at room temperature? Leave notes on the bottle itself to put back in the fridge after, or keep out of the light.
- What happens if you miss a dose? – Should you double up on the next dose or just let it go?
Got any other tips? We’d love to hear them from you!