Almost 90% of adults 65 and older in the U.S. take one or more prescription medications. These prescriptions are often essential for preventing, mitigating, and treating various health conditions, but only if they’re taken correctly.
Seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or normal memory loss due to aging may have trouble remembering when and how to take their medications. Additionally, it can be easy to mix up prescriptions, which can have dangerous consequences. If your loved one is battling cancer, a private nurse for a cancer patient can take charge in organizing medication as well as assisting with treatment.
At Alliance Homecare, we provide home health aide services and home medical assistance, and are passionate about helping people get the care they need while living comfortably at home. If you or a loved one are having trouble keeping track or remembering to take prescribed drugs, these medication management tips for seniors may help.
How to Manage Medications for Seniors
It’s not uncommon for aging adults to have multiple prescriptions at a given time. However, mismanaging multiple medications can result in what’s called an adverse drug event (ADE), meaning a person is harmed by or has adverse reactions to taking medicine.
Alarmingly, ADEs result in roughly 350,000 hospitalizations a year. Adults 65 and older are twice as likely to go to the emergency room as younger age groups and seven times as likely to be hospitalized following an ER visit. According to the CDC, misuse of blood thinners, seizure medications, diabetes medications, and opioids are involved in many of these incidents.
Taking too much of a prescription, missing doses, or getting prescriptions mixed can be a big concern. That being said, medications can be managed safely with the right tools and systems in place. Here’s what we recommend.
Proper Storage and Organization
First and foremost, prescription medication should be properly stored and organized. Most people have seen labels suggesting drugs and supplements be stored in a “cool, dry place.” This is an essential component of proper storage, as heat and moisture can impact the effectiveness of medicines.
Some drugs might need to be stored in the refrigerator. It will usually say so on the label, but if you’re unsure, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. If children or pets are in the household, medications should also be stored somewhere out of reach.
While mixing up medications should be avoided at all costs, keeping them in one place can help you manage them. We recommend that everything is clearly labeled. If the text on the bottles is too small to read, you may want to print labels with a larger font or use color-coded stickers.
Next, take careful inventory of all medications. This will help you ensure all necessary medicines are being taken, whether they may need to be refilled, and if there are any expired prescriptions in your cabinet.
Go through every bottle and record:
- Name of the drug
- Purpose of the medication
- Whether it should be taken with food or on an empty stomach
- Whether it should be taken in the morning or at night
- Prescription number
- Prescribing healthcare provider
- Number of refills
- Whether it’s intended for short- or long-term use
- Warnings on the label
In addition to warnings on the label, you may want to research possible drug interactions. If any over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or supplements are taken regularly, take note of those too.
Another vital aspect of medication management for seniors is pre-sorting doses. Pill organizers have been around for a long time, and for good reason! They can be extremely useful in helping aging adults remember to take their medicines.
Most pill organizers have either seven compartments (one for each day of the week) or 14 (one for every morning and evening of the week), but some may have more. Additionally, some pills might need to be cut in half, which you can do before sorting them into their compartments.
Pre-sorting medications for your loved one once a week will ensure they take everything as prescribed. When a pill organizer is placed on their nightstand, on the kitchen table, or on the bathroom counter, many seniors can remember to take their medications. However, others may need additional reminders.
Scheduling and Reminders
To avoid accidentally skipping or doubling up on doses, you may want to set reminders or create a simple scheduling system. This can be useful for seniors and their caregivers, especially when multiple medications are involved.
One option is to set a digital reminder, either on a phone, with an alarm clock, or through a mobile app for more tech-savvy seniors. When the reminder goes off, they’ll know it’s time to take their medication.
Another thing you can do is create a tracking log. While apps and spreadsheets may work for younger generations, a simple pen and paper system is often a great option. The chart should include each medication’s name, the dose, the date, and the day of the week. Once a medication has been taken, it can be noted in the log. If you’re using a pill organizer, the chart can be simpler with just the date and day of the week. If you or your loved one requires extra reminders for taking prescribed medication, our team at Alliance Homecare is happy to provide the support you need with home health aide services.
Taking Medications as Directed
Generally speaking, medications are safe when used as directed, but no drug is without risk. For this reason, one of the most important aspects of medication management is taking them as directed. This may seem obvious, but unfortunately, misusing prescription drugs is common and can lead to the ADEs we mentioned above. For example, our diabetes home care service will have the home health aide assist with monitoring blood glucose levels and managing insulin injections.
If your loved one receives a prescription for a medication they haven’t used before, be sure to take note of the dose and directions for taking it. Carefully read the label, record any warnings or side effects, and research possible drug interactions. If anything is unclear or you have concerns, get in touch with the prescribing doctor or pharmacist.
Refills and Appointments
Implementing a storage system, sorting medications, creating a medication schedule, and setting reminders are essential pieces of the puzzle, and Alliance Homecare is here to help.
We recommend all prescriptions are refilled on time so your loved one doesn’t miss a dose. In some cases, you might be able to arrange for a 90-day supply, though this will be up to their doctor and an insurance company. Also, many medications can be mailed, saving you a trip to the pharmacy.
Additionally, when drugs are taken on an ongoing basis, seniors usually need to regularly visit their healthcare provider. The doctor may ask about the medication, discuss other drugs or supplements being taken, and determine whether to prescribe a refill. If you accompany your loved one to their visit, be sure to ask questions on their behalf and come prepared with your inventory notes.
Medication Management Support
Medication management is vital in ensuring the safety of seniors. Having said that, it’s a substantial, sometimes time-consuming job. If you’re a primary caregiver for a senior or have a health issue that makes it challenging to manage your prescriptions on your own, Alliance homecare can provide the support you need with home medical assistance.
Home Health Aide Care in New York City
At Alliance Homecare, we provide individuals with at-home assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living). ADL’s includes support for various self-care tasks, such as bathing, grooming, eating, cleaning, and taking medications. Our compassionate home health aides are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They offer personalized in home nurse care plans for aging adults, allowing them to continue living independently at home. Alliance Homecare can assist with medication organizing, pill sorting, scheduling, reminders, and refill assistance. They can even escort clients to doctor appointments.
Additionally, Alliance Homecare encourages you to learn how to incorporate heart healthy foods into your loved one’s diet, discover important tips on improving memory for seniors, or learn more about transferring techniques for caregivers. We have all the sources you need.
To learn more about how a home health aide can help keep your loved one safe and healthy, contact us today.