Medication Management Tips for Seniors

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Eight out of 10 older adults take at least one medication and many take three or more daily. Older adults comprise 13 percent of the population but account for 34 percent of all prescription medicine use and 30 percent of all over-the-counter medicine use. Also, older adults often use multiple medicines (averaging 14 prescriptions each), increasing the risk of drug interactions, mix-ups, and the potential for harmful side effects. Source: National Council on Patient Information and Education

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Meet Sharon Roth Maguire, our expert

Our expert, Sharon Roth Maguire, M.S., R.N., gerontological nurse practitioner-BC, is the chief clinical quality officer at BrightStar Care®. Sharon has an extensive healthcare background with more than 15 years of experience working with seniors and managing their medications. Sharon was delighted to share her medication-management tips with HealthCentral readers in the following slides.

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Stay cognizant of side effects

It’s vital to be aware of any type of side effect, especially when taking multiple medications. If a new medication is introduced, new side effects may occur. Seniors may be tempted to dismiss a feeling of sleepiness, stomach upsets, or other issues, as related to something else in their life but when medications are involved, especially changes to doses, they should alert the prescriber so they can help decide the cause. Be persistent, especially if the symptoms continue or worsen.

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Set reminders

We all forget to take medication periodically. It’s especially essential for seniors to stay on track because if a condition-specific medication is forgotten, it could cause serious implications. Many older adults are taking multiple medications and if they get off track the conditions for which those medications are being used will be impacted.

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Organize medication

Many times seniors can adjust their medication list down to something manageable in terms of the number of times a day they need to take medications. Discuss this with your pharmacist or doctor. Ideally, organizing medication to twice a day, and organizing pills in a.m. and p.m. boxes makes remembering much easier. While it’s not always possible, it’s something to strive for because it will increase the likelihood of remembering to take all necessary medications.

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Schedule frequent doctor visits

It is important to schedule frequent doctor visits when taking various medications, especially when they have been prescribed by multiple providers. For some individuals, this may be once a quarter. For others twice a year may be enough. There should be one healthcare provider managing their overall care and helping coordinate the management of many medications.

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Create a list of medication rules to follow

Lists are helpful for most people when it comes to organizing daily tasks and ensuring things aren’t forgotten. If you’re one of these individuals, create a simple list of what pills need to be taken with meals and liquids aligned with the time of day needed, and place it in a location that is frequently visited during your normal daily routines. For example, kitchen or bathroom cabinets or the front of the refrigerator can be great places because they are viewed on a regular basis.

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Arrange for medication to be picked up or delivered

Many older adults no longer drive or don’t want to drive in bad weather. Not everyone has a support system that can readily jump in when driving may be needed to complete a task like picking up prescriptions, either. Some pharmacies offer delivery services for medications, and most Medicare D policies (and likely Advantage policies) have the option to get prescriptions by mail. Caregivers or adult children may want to help set this up.

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Be aware of expiration dates

While it may seem obvious to check expiration dates, this is often overlooked. Medication does expire, so seniors must be mindful, especially for medication that is used on an “as needed” basis, such as some pain medications. Seniors may have had the prescription for a long time so it’s imperative to check the labels frequently. If they’re unsure of expiration dates on the label, call the pharmacist and they can check on when the medication was prescribed and if it’s expired or not.

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Don’t share medication

You may be tempted to take someone up on the offer of trying something that works for another person, but this should never be done. This medication could be very dangerous for you because of potential interactions with other medications that you take, or health issues that you may have that the other person doesn’t have. Even dosages given because of differences in weight or gender make a difference. What works for someone else might not work for you and could be dangerous to your health.

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Takeaway

Proper medication management is not only important — it can possibly mean life or death. If an older adult is not able to keep track of medication using these tips, try pill boxes made for people with Alzheimer’s, which are available in stores and online. If no modern technology helps them, then it’s time for someone to arrange for their elders’ medication needs. Most seniors, however, other than those with later stage dementia, will do very well if they follow the tips on these slides.