Helping the elderly keep a track of their medication regimen can be a daunting task. It can be pretty stressful to receive intimations from their doctors about issues related to their sugar levels or blood pressure going out of control.
However, there are few measures that you can take so as to ensure that the elderly are taking their prescribed medications on time and correctly.
Why is medication safety so important for the elderly?
Medication safety is very important to be considered for the elderly. As they get older, they may start taking medications (prescribed or over the counter). Some of the medications have a tendency to interact with other medicines and may lead to an unsafe and unwanted reaction. We are listing some tips to help in promoting medication safety for the elderly.
- Take medications as instructed by the doctor: It is quite important to stick to what your doctor has said regarding your medication regimen. This means not missing any doses or deciding to stop taking the drugs without the approval of the doctor. Medication does not work if it is not taken as per the instructions of the doctor. Also, chronic conditions like high blood pressure, sugar. or cholesterol can be managed only if the medication is taken regularly.
- Maintain a list of all prescription and over the counter medication as well as the supplements taken by the elderly: Such a list would include the drug name, dosage, and the number of times a day or week it needs to be taken. This helps in keeping the process organized especially if the elderly take multiple meds and supplements. Being disorganized can lead to unnecessary health issues because of possible instances of either missing a dose or possibly taking multiple doses accidentally.
- Learn what to do if any of the doses are missed: In case the senior forgets to take a drug, they should know if they should take the missed dose right away once they realize or should they wait for the next time when they were scheduled to take it. In some cases, the duration between the doses is quite important.
- The elderly should be aware of the risk of possible drug interactions: As people age, they develop a much higher risk of drug interactions if a certain set of medications are combined. This is particularly dangerous if they have medical conditions that make certain drugs harmful to them. Drug interactions can also happen when certain foods or beverages are taken along with medicines.
How to ensure that the elderly remember taking their medicines on time?
There are multiple strategies that you can undertake to help the elderly remember their medications.
Make a list of the medicines that the elderly are taking
It is important to ensure that the elderly remember to take their medications on time. The first step towards that is to have a list of all the medicines that the elderly are taking. This includes not just the prescription medicines but also the over the counter medicines and supplements they might be taking.
This is way better than having a random assortment of pill bottles spread around the house. Keeping the medications organized is also helpful in case of medical emergencies as this may inform the first responders about the medicines the elderly are taking, which reduces teh chances of any drug interactions.
Build a medication regime
If you make the elderly take their medications at the same time every day, it helps them in building a routine around their medications. It also eliminates the requirement of remembering different times for different medications.
An important part of having a medication regime is organizing the medicines of the elderly. It is easier for seniors to follow a regimen if their pills are properly organized and neatly labeled.
Use pillboxes that have alarms and are day-labeled
Using pillboxes that have alarms and have been labeled by days makes it significantly easier for the elderly to keep up with their medication regimen. These pillboxes have separate compartments for each specific day, and sometimes even for the time of the day.
This makes it easy for you to plan the medication for the whole week for the elderly in advance. Pillboxes make things easier if the elderly are supposed to take several pills multiple times during the day. You can even buy locked pillboxes so that they are not accidentally accessed by someone who is not supposed to access the medicines.
Use pill cutters and splitters
It is as important for seniors to take the right dose of medicines as it is to take it at the right time. If an elderly person has to cut a pill, they are best off using a pill cutter or splitter. Pill cutters do not cost a lot and help cut pills neatly. While some pills can be cut using a knife, it is inherently dangerous to do so.
Use smartphone apps
Nowadays, there are multiple smartphone apps that can track the medication for the elderly. You can download such apps on the phone or tablet of the elderly and they can get consistent reminders for their medicines. The apps allow the elderly to snooze reminders in case they are not in the position to take the medicine right away.
Use wall or table calendars
Not all seniors are familiar or comfortable with technology. For them, smartphone apps might be an additional hassle. In such cases, you can take the good old-fashioned route and use wall or table calendars to keep track of their medication.
It is something that they feel comfortable using as they are more familiar with it. Do ensure that the reminders are marked clearly in the calendar and find a way that the medications are tracked consistently. Always remind the elderly to cross over the reminder every time they take their medication.
Get additional help from family members
In order to ensure that the elderly take their medicines on time, you can ask for help from other family members, a friend, or a neighbor.
A quick call or reminder from another family member can help the elderly to refill their prescription and can help them stay organized.
How to store medicines properly?
As people grow old, taking medication seems to become a part of the daily routine. Be it supplements or prescription drugs for a specific ailment, taking medicines becomes a way of life for the elderly. In order to assist them with managing their medication, you can take certain steps.
Keeping medications scattered all over the place in different locations can cause the elderly to lose track of prescriptions and even miss certain doses. You can mitigate this by keeping all medicines in one place. Gather all the medicines, including over the counter medications, multivitamins, and supplements into a centralized location.
Ensure that the medications are kept in a way that they stay safe to use. They should be stored properly. As a rule of thumb, prescription medicines need to be kept in a cool and dry place to ensure optimum shelf life.
Heat and moisture have a tendency to affect drugs. They should thus be kept away from the bathroom in a medicine cabinet. If directed by your physician, you should ensure that certain medicines are kept in refrigerated locations.
Maintain an updated checklist for all medicines. This helps in preventing any form of drug interactions and helps you in knowing exactly what medicines are currently at home and what are they used for.
Things to keep in mind when maintaining a checklist for medication
However independent a senior is, sometimes they tend to struggle with managing their regular medication. There can be too many things to keep a track of.
Sometimes the drug names are too difficult to remember and sometimes there are so many medications that need to be taken at different times that it might leave the elderly utterly baffled.
It is essential to maintain a comprehensive medication checklist especially if the elderly are seeing multiple doctors who are prescribing different medications to them.
As a starting point to managing the medication, you should maintain an updated list of all medication taken by the elderly. Translate all prescriptions that are handwritten onto this list so that they are readable and legible. Specify the condition that is being treated by each medicine.
Avoid using different pharmacies to prevent situations of drug interactions between prescriptions. Be aware of the potential side effects of the medicines and also monitor any possible food or drug-based interactions.
Use a pillbox, smartphone apps, or an alarm system for managing the medications on a daily basis.
Apart from this, you should remember that the elderly sometimes have a tendency to forget details of their medicines. To prevent any adverse situations arising out of this, your medication checklist should include some additional information.
This includes the name of the drug for both generic and brand name medication along with the required dosage. It should also include the start and stop dates, the kind of medication (pills, capsules, liquid), any side effects, the condition being treated, allergies to the medication, etc.
Along with this, instructions on taking the medicines (with food, on empty stomach, at bedtime), name and contact information of the prescribers (physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant), and the details of the pharmacy that filled the prescriptions should also be included.
Also, keep a smaller limited list of the medications in the wallet of the elderly. This should include the most important information in terms of the medicine name, dosage, allergies and the contact details of the pharmacy.
This information will be invaluable if there is a medical emergency considering the first responders would be able to know what they can give and not give to the elderly.
Other options to help the elderly remember their medication
Medication Services for Elderly
There are some options like medication services for the elderly that help them in managing their prescriptions so they can be more independent.
These are in the form of visiting medication management services where a nurse or an aide will help the elderly in taking their medicines. In addition to this, some in-home caregiver services provide medication management as a part of their home-care services for the elderly.
Day labeled pillboxes
Day labeled pillboxes can hold up to a week-long supply of the medications. They are typically labeled with the specific day and the time period (morning or breakfast) when the medication needs to be taken.
Blister packs are prepared by the pharmacy and each pack contains a day’s worth of pills or pills that are supposed to be taken at a specific time, such as breakfast or lunch.
Alarmed pillboxes give an alarm to the patients to remind them about the timings when they are supposed ot take their medicines. Some of them come with facilities where the device remembers when was the last time that the prescription bottle was opened and reminders can be set accordingly.
PillPack is a service by Amazon that saves you from going to the pharmacy to pick up a refill of your prescription. This service sorts the monthly prescriptions of the elderly and keeps them in easy-to-open packs.
Each pack is labeled with the specific day of the week and the time of the day. PillPack also handles creams, inhalers, as well as testing supplies for the elderly.
The service and shipping do not cost you anything and the elderly pay their regular insurance copays in a manner similar to a physical pharmacy. In case you need something urgently, PillPack also offers a 1-day service.
As mentioned before, helping the elderly remember their medication is a daunting task. As a person ages, the quantity of medicines taken by them increases significantly.
Even if they are not suffering from any major ailments, supplements become a part of their daily routine to continue to provide them with the required energy to carry through the day.
However independent a senior is, sometimes they tend to forget about the medication. This becomes troublesome especially if the medicine is lifesaving or needs to be taken mandatorily for better health.
In addition, there are several other factors like drug interactions, allergies, food interactions, etc which need to be considered and remembered.
Managing medication can be done using technology or the old-fashioned way. You can also take help from external services.
However, do remember that sometimes this much information can be overwhelming for the elderly and you need to realize when you should pitch in yourself or bring in a third person to start helping the seniors manage their medication.