Although assisted living facilities will often take responsibility for this aspect of care, seniors living at home and on multiple prescriptions should learn these basic medication management tips. If you are a family member withan aging loved one who is on medication, this is important information to make sure that their medications are being administered correctly and safely.
Avoiding Errors in Medication Management
The term “polypharmacy” refers to the regular use of five or more medications by an individual. Although this is a way of life for many, it can also be very dangerous to our health. In fact, 350,000 people are hospitalized annually because of adverse reactions to medications, often multiple medications taken at the same time. Medication management is essential to prevent potentially severe reactions in senior citizens. As we age, we tend to take multiple supplements, vitamins and medications for various health conditions and overall health. For those who are experiencing mild memory loss or confusion, medications can be mixed up or forgotten, causing dangerous situations.
Not only can cognitive problems cause these types of mistakes, but there are other circumstances which can result in errors. One of the most common of these is the rise of specialists, and a single person may have multiple physicians who don’t properly coordinate care.
Health Problems Which May Occur
Drug Interactions: There are many medications which cannot be taken simultaneously, or others which shouldn’t be mixed with certain food or beverages. Taking a medication incorrectly may at best make it ineffective – but at worst could cause illness or death.
Health Conditions: Seeing several health providers or suffering from multiple health conditions may cause senior citizens to be over-medicated. If people take more medication than they need it can harm the function of the body, or lead to mental illness or memory issues.
Falls and Fractures: Improper medication management may result in frail bones and subsequently hip fractures. This significantly elevates the chances that the elderly may fall and injure themselves.
Stopping Medication Usage: Seniors often stop taking their medication, whether because they forget to renew the prescription or because they don’t like how the medication makes them feel. Others are forced to decide between which medications to take based upon financial struggles.
7 Medication Management Tips
- Review medications with their doctor: Take note of the names and dosages of all medications prescribed from all doctors, and bring the list to their primary physician. You should also include vitamins, supplements and over the counter drugs. The doctor can then pinpoint any areas of concern, identify overmedication, and speak with other doctors if there is a conflict.
- Educate yourself about potential drug interactions: Reading medication labels and inserts is a good start, but bring any new medications or OTC treatments to the primary care doctor to make sure the new drug is safe with all current medications.
- Know possible side effects: Identify potential side effects before administering the new drug, and ask the person taking the drug if they feel any different since beginning it. Watch for changes in sleep habits, weight, appetite, energy level, and cognitive ability.
- Ask if the drug and dosage are age-appropriate: There are certain medications which work better as we age, and others which are less effective as we grow older. Some medications may need higher dosages as we age, and other require less potency. Be sure that the physician is aware of the age-appropriateness of the drug in question.
- Watch out for self-prescribing: Your loved one may feel like they need more of a certain medication, and thus take more than they are prescribed. Or they may add over-the-counter medications hoping they will bring greater relief than the prescribed drug alone. Be sure that your loved one understands that this may undermine the effectiveness of their daily regimen, or even cause them harm.
- Check in on them: If your loved one lives alone and is in charge of administering their own medication, check in on them to make sure they are taking their medication properly. If they are becoming forgetful, look into a reminder system to help. Remember, however, that they may be experiencing the beginning stages of dementia. If this is a concern, you may wish to look into assisted living or memory care options.
- Always go to the same pharmacy: Even if you have multiple doctors, a qualified and experienced pharmacist will be able to identify medication contraindications or spot the red flags. Maintain a personal relationship with your pharmacist, and if possible, have a primary care physician which reviews specialist prescriptions.
Medications are meant to improve quality of life. But they can also be dangerous – so staying vigilant and involved in your loved one’s administration of these medications is essential. If your loved one is at the point of needing more attentive care, visit A Banyan Residence in Venice.