How many prescription drugs do your aging parents take? If they’re like most seniors, they take at least one – probably more.
While medicines can help us live longer and healthier, taking them the wrong way or mixing certain drugs can be dangerous – and, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 55% of seniors fail to take their medications as prescribed.
“Managing medications can be difficult for a variety of reasons,” said Sierra Goetz, co-founder and operations director at Tudor Oaks Home Care’s partner, the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “For example, it can be hard for seniors to read the small print on the pill bottles and, seniors who have memory issues, often simply don’t remember to take the right pills at the right time.”
Below are ten tips to help you or your aging loved ones avoid common medication mistakes.
- Create and maintain an up-to-date medication list. To prevent negative interactions, it’s important to know exactly what’s being taken. Be sure to record:
- The names of each prescription, over-the-counter medication, vitamins and supplements
- How often each medication is taken
- The correct dosage
- The healthcare providers name and contact information
- The purpose of each medication/symptoms it’s supposed to treat
- Keep all prescriptions, vitamins, over-the-counter drugs and supplements in one place. If some medications are in the kitchen and others in the bathroom medicine cabinet, it’s easy to lose track of what’s being taken when. Organizing everything in one location will reduce chances of a medication mix-up.
- Make sure medications are properly stored. Keep all medications in a cool, dry place – away from children and pets.
- Regularly check expiration dates. If a medicine is past its expiration date, ask your doctor or pharmacist how you can safely dispose of it.
- Understand possible side effects. New medications or increased dosage could increase the risk of falls, upset the stomach, cause weakness and more. It’s important to understand the potential side effects and contact your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms.
- Ask about possible negative drug interactions. Before adding a new medication to the regimen, ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible negative side effects. If you identify a potentially problematic interaction, let the doctor know. Don’t stop taking medications on your own, as that could also be dangerous.
- Pre-sort medications for the week. Use a daily pill organizer to ensure the right medications are being taken at the right time. Be sure to get one with enough compartments and, if any pills need to be split, do it ahead of time.
- Set up a tracking/reminder system. Whether it’s with a medication management app or pencil and paper, a simple chart can ensure medications are being taken properly – and use alarms to make sure you’re taking them on time.
- Don’t share. Never take medicines prescribed for another person or give yours to someone else.
- Plan ahead for medication refills. It’s important to get refills on time, so you don’t miss doses. Ask your doctor about medication delivery options or check with your pharmacist about automatic refills.
If you or an aging loved one need assistance with medication management, we can help. Our experienced caregivers can help set up a tracking system and ensure you or your senior are taking the right meds at the right time.