As our loved ones age, they often need a variety of medications to treat the health care problems that arise in seniors. The reasons for taking medication are extensive and include those for high blood pressure, heart issues and arthritis. In fact, a recent survey of 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries found that 40% of patients reported taking five or more prescription medications. As you consider the number of medications that your senior loved one takes every day, it becomes obvious that one aspect of care giving involves medication safety.
Drug related complications are serious, especially among the senior population. Surprisingly, almost 40% of seniors are unable to read the prescription label and 76% do not understand the instructions given by their doctor about taking their medications.* Taking multiple medications can cause confusion about when to take which medication, resulting in human error. Drug interactions are common as the number of prescriptions increase. Finally, our bodies process medications differently as we age, increasing the risk of adverse reactions those medications.
As a caregiver, what can you do to help your loved one with medication safety?
- First, use the same pharmacy for all medications and ask the pharmacist about any over the counter medications.
- Take a list of all medications and dosage amounts to every doctor visit. If a new medication is prescribed, ask the doctor about side effects and drug interactions.
- Devise a plan for medication administration. Set an alarm as a reminder to take medications. A daily pill box is helpful for many seniors, especially if pill bottles are difficult for them to open.
- Report side effects to the prescribing doctor. Adjusting the dosage or time of day may alleviate side effects.
- Ask your loved one’s primary care doctor to review all medications annually or more frequently if they are struggling with side effects.
Angela Denicola, RN, has extensive experience working with seniors. She also has a strong knowledge base of the medications taken by seniors. Angela is the owner and on-site director of Bon Vivant Adult Day Club, located in Fenton. She often discusses medications, drug interactions and safety tips with her members and their caregivers. Angela has dedicated her life to ensuring that seniors enjoy good living longer. Bon Vivant Adult Day Club is cost-effective, saving thousands of dollars when compared to home health or a nursing home. Please feel free to visit the website at www.goodlivinglonger.com or call Angela at 636-343-1600.
*For additional information on medication safety for seniors, visit www.mustforseniors.org.
Article written by Beverly McKee, MSW, LCSW