The ringing phone awakens you in the middle of the night. On the other end is your elderly parent who has just sustained a fall and needs help immediately.
After getting emergency help at the hospital, you learn that your parent took their blood pressure medicine (lisinopril) along with pain medication (hydrocodone) — a dangerous combination that resulted in extreme dizziness and the subsequent fall.
You’re thankful that your parent’s injuries were minor, but the incident helped you see how important it is to carefully manage medications for seniors.
Managing medications for seniors can be challenging.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of thirteen tips to help put procedures in place that will give you and your elderly loved one peace of mind when it comes to taking their medication.
DISCLAIMER: The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Table of Contents
Challenges of Medication Management as We Age
As we age, it’s common to experience more conditions that require regular medication.
Conditions like …
- High cholesterol; and
- Respiratory infections
… require a variety of medications that many seniors may need to take regularly and in conjunction with each other.
According to recent studies, 87% of senior adults take at least one medication. Thirty-six percent take five or more medications, increasing the risk of dangerous drug interactions and side effects.
Medication management can be challenging for a host of other reasons:
- Senior adults receive prescriptions from various healthcare providers, which can make it difficult to keep track of medicines and possible interactions.
- Kidney and liver function, metabolism, and weight changes can impact how medicines work and break down in our bodies as we age.
- Side effects can be caused when medicines stay in seniors’ bodies longer and doses are not adjusted to take this into account.
- Physical challenges — trouble reading labels or opening bottles — may make it hard for seniors to get the medication they need when they need it.
- Special instructions, like specific times to take medications or taking medication with food, can be difficult for seniors, especially those dealing with dementia or other memory-related conditions.
Why Is Medication Management Important for Seniors?
Adverse drug events (ADEs) — like side effects, allergic reactions, or harmful drug interactions — can be scary for senior adults and their loved ones. ADEs occur in 15 percent or more of senior adults. With proper monitoring and education, many of these adverse events can be prevented.
Because older adults often suffer from several chronic conditions, they may require a medication plan that involves several medicines. With the need for multiple medications, there is little room for error.
Senior Services of America communities offer medication management with our experienced care team. With our commitment to safety and communication, our residents’ health is of utmost importance.
13 Medication Management Tips for Seniors
#1 Regularly Update a List of Current Medications
Keep a list of all the medications you take and update it regularly.
Your list should include:
- Prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Vitamins; and
In addition to the name of each medication, it’s also a good idea to include:
- Dosage information
- How often the medication is taken
- The condition the medication is for
- The healthcare provider who prescribed the medicine
- When refills are needed
If your healthcare provider uses electronic charts, they may be able to print out a list for you.
#2 Take Notes About Reactions After Any Medication Changes Are Made
Keeping a medication diary may be a good way to keep track of the medicines you take, how they are working, and any reactions you experience.
This is especially true when changes are made to your medication regimen, including:
- Adding a new medication
- Stopping a medication
- Adjusting dosages
- Changing the time of day a medication is taken
#3 Schedule Periodic Medication Reviews
It’s important to regularly discuss your medications and concerns with your healthcare provider. Whether you make a point to do that every time you see your doctor, or you make a point to schedule a special appointment — every six months or once a year — this will help keep you and your doctor informed and on the same page.
When you visit your doctor, remember to:
- Take your medication diary to share reactions and the effectiveness of the medications with your provider.
- Make a list of questions you want to make sure to ask your doctor.
- Share any concerns you have with your doctor.
- Inform your doctor about any recent hospital visits or visits with other providers and any changes made to your medications.
#4 Double (or Triple) Check for Interactions
Drug interactions are serious and can cause significant issues. Double-checking for possible interactions is an easy step to avoid these dangers.
Doctors and pharmacists are busy, and sometimes you need to be your biggest advocate. Your health is important, so make it a priority to be educated about interactions that may exist with your current medications.
When reviewing medications, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist to double or triple-check for possible interactions, including interactions with:
- Other medications
- Specific foods
- Specific drinks; or
#5 Be Aware of Possible Side-Effects
All medications come with possible side effects.
Educating yourself about the possible side effects of your medication is an important step to guarantee your medicine is working optimally for you.
Common side effects of medications that seniors should be aware of include:
- Weight loss or gain
- Changes in memory or ability to think
- Pain or weakness
Review the information that comes with your medication or warnings that are printed on the bottle.
Before you leave the doctor’s office or the pharmacy, make sure you understand:
- What to look out for
- What effects are normal
- What side effects aren’t normal
If you experience any side effects or problems with your medication, contact your doctor right away.
#6 Review Medication Instructions Thoroughly (and Follow Them)
It’s crucial to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to taking your medications to avoid the risk of:
- Negative drug interactions
- Side effects; or
- Reducing the drug’s effectiveness
Make sure you or your loved one knows when it’s safe to take medications together and when they need to be spaced out. Know which medications can be taken on an empty stomach and which ones need to be taken with food.
Discuss any questions you have with your doctor or pharmacist, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on any of the instructions that are confusing or unclear.
#7 Store All Medications in One Place (But Ensure They’re Stored Properly)
Storing medications in one place makes them easy to keep track of.
Unless the medication needs to be refrigerated, it’s a good idea to keep medicine in a cool dry place — like a kitchen cabinet as opposed to a bathroom cabinet.
Keep medications in their original packaging so the dosage, instructions, and refill dates are readily accessible.
Take care to keep medication away from children and pets.
#8 Sort, Prepare, and Organize Medications Each Week
For seniors that live alone, organizing medications correctly is essential.
Pill organizers are the simplest way to prepare medications for the week.
Depending on your needs, you can find organizers with compartments for each day or with compartments for morning, noon, and night if you need to take medicine at different times throughout the day.
Set aside one time each week to sort through medications and place them in the organizer for the week. If pills need to be cut in half, do that ahead of time and place them in the correct compartments.
If your loved one needs help, plan a time to visit each week to offer assistance.
#9 Check Expiration Dates
Expired medications may not be effective or safe and may cause confusion for senior adults, so it’s important to regularly check the expiration dates on your medications.
Discard expired medications properly and safely.
#10 Implement a Reminder System
Remembering to take medications at the right time is half the battle.
Fortunately, there are lots of tools seniors can use to help them remember when to take their medicine, including:
- Phone alarms
- Alexa reminders
- Pill reminder apps on smartphones
- Written notes on a calendar
- Sticky notes or other posted reminders
Everyone is different and one method may work better for you than another. Try out a few methods and pick one that works best for you.
#11 Use One Pharmacy for All Your Medications
Sticking to one pharmacy adds an extra layer of protection, especially if multiple health providers are working on your medical care.
Using only one pharmacy includes these benefits:
- Reduces the risk of negative drug interactions
- Decreased risk of duplicate medications
- Ease in providing information about medications, including possible interactions and side effects
#12 Set up Automatic Refills and Arrange for Pick-Up or Delivery if Needed
Getting refills on time is essential, especially for medication that you take daily or on a long-term basis.
These tips can help make sure you have your medicines when you need them:
- Ask your doctor to prescribe medicines for 90 days at a time.
- Use a mail-order pharmacy.
- Set up automatic refills and get notifications when they are ready.
- Set up a pickup time or arrange a delivery.
- Mark refill dates on your calendar and remember to pick them up before your current prescriptions run out.
#13 Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help.
Maybe you just need someone to check in on you regularly to make sure you’re taking your meds properly and regularly.
Or maybe you need to ask someone to help you set up reminders or help you fill your pill organizer weekly.
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia may need special help since a reminder system may not be useful with their cognitive impairment.
Whatever help you may need — just ask.
What Can You Do if Medication Management Becomes Too Difficult?
When you need help with managing medications and other tasks of your daily routine, a senior assisted living community may provide the needed assistance.
In an assisted living community, the care team does the groundwork needed to manage your medications, including:
- Knowing which medications you need
- When you need to take them
- What instructions to follow
- What side effects to look for; and
- Negative drug interactions to be aware of
With this type of care, you or your family members can have peace of mind, knowing that your medication needs are precisely and properly overseen by competent and experienced caregivers.
At Senior Services of America We Prioritize Our Resident’s Health
At Senior Services of America, you’ll find senior communities throughout the Pacific Northwest aimed at treating seniors with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Whether you are looking for…
- Independent living
- Assisted living
- Memory care; or
- Respite care
… the care team in our communities makes our residents’ health a high priority.
We strive to foster a positive environment while valuing:
- Our residents
- Encouragement; and
If you or your loved one is looking for loving care from experienced professionals, contact Senior Services of America or find a community near you.