5 Tips to Optimal Medication Management

Did you know that most assisted living communities provide their residents with medication management services, which can be very helpful if family members live far away or cannot regularly check on aging loved ones? For seniors who live at home, understanding steps to manage medications effectively can help keep them safe. 

It is not uncommon to see multiple bottles of pills on your aging parent’s counter. Therefore, it is very important to understand the preventative measures to avoid potentially serious health hazards in seniors. Older adults often take multiple medications, vitamins, and supplements to treat different symptoms and health conditions, increasing their risk of mixing up pills or taking pills twice. In some cases, these simple mistakes can become dangerous or even fatal. 

Other factors that increase the risk of health problems related to medication mismanagement in our seniors include:

Cognitive conditions, including memory issues, seeing multiple doctors, multiple chronic diseases, not having a primary care doctor to coordinate care, mental health issues, and frailty. In addition, certain medications cannot be taken together or with specific foods or drinks, so it’s important to know the instructions for each medication.

How can you, a son, daughter, or friend, help a parent or loved one with effective medication management?

Follow these five tips to create optimal medication management. 

1. Review your aging loved one’s medications with their doctor 

You can write down the names and dosages of all medications they take and how frequently they take them, and who prescribed them. Include all the over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements too. Ensure to attend the next primary doctor appointment and share this list so that the doctor can more accurately attend to any potential adverse effects or drug interactions. 

2. Read medication labels, and don’t be afraid to ask questions

If your parent is starting a new drug, ask the doctor questions to confirm if it should be taken with food or without. Don’t be afraid to spend time with the pharmacist and understand what possible side effects could occur or learn about possible drug interactions. Our pharmacists are very knowledgeable professionals and may know more than the doctor does regarding your loved one’s medication regime, including if dosages are age-appropriate or need to be adjusted. 

3. Make your loved-one aware of the dangers of self-prescribing

Your aging parent may be tempted to increase the dose of a certain medication, or they may decide to take a medication prescribed for someone else, like a spouse.  They may add an over-the-counter drug to their medication to get quick relief. Self-medicating is a no-no and can cause serious harm. Please remind your parent always to ask their doctor’s advice and never take a medication prescribed to someone else or an out-of-date prescription, for that matter. 

4. Monitor for medication compliance

Medications only work if taken consistently and as directed by the doctor. If your aging parent is simply forgetful or has trouble tracking their medications, a reminder system may be helpful. For example, my Dad turns his pill container upside down once he has taken his morning pills to remind him he has taken his medication. Others use pillboxes with the days of the week and a.m. and p.m. on the different compartments. These days you can order your pill combinations in blister packs to eliminate medication errors. However, this type of dispensing can come with an extra fee. You decide if this peace of mind is worth the extra few dollars. It will save time sorting through pill containers and makes it easy to see if pills have been missed. 

5. Minimize the number of doctors and pharmacists you use

Having a primary care provider such as a family physician can help make care coordination easier by establishing good communication with the other specialists. Also, it is an excellent practice to obtain all your parent’s medications from one pharmacy to add another level of review, help ensure appropriate dosages and reduce the risk of adverse drug effects and interactions.    

I hope that you find this article helpful in caring for your parent or loved one. I know that as they age, it can feel stressful and a feeling of overwhelm on how best to help them. However, you are here learning many tips and tools, so I commend you for taking this first step.

I will be launching my course Vibrant Senior Living Core Program on September 17, 2020.

For more information, please contact me directly at ravina@ravinachandra.com

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About the author 

Ravina Chandra

After completing my Nursing degree and launching into my career, I soon discovered that ‘Preventative Health’ is what saves us from the pain and suffering that accompanies illness and premature aging.

I now assist older adults in finding balance in mind & body, and mentoring them to align with their core values, their loves, their hopes, and their dreams. I look forward to our time together.

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