The Number One Medication Management Tip: Pay Attention to the Details

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posted by Ryan Whittington on December 23, 2010

The ability of the elderly to manage their medications is often a concern to the family. These concerns of the family often become a point of contention between themselves and the elder. At what point does the family step in?

I am a big believer of trusting your instincts—there is a reason you are concerned. You did not worry about your parents ability when they were healthy and strong in their 60's or 70's. Something has you thinking there is a problem now. Trust that !!!

Thirty five percent—read that again—thirty five percent—of hospital admissions of the elderly are related to either medication non-compliance, under-medicating, or over medicating.

125,000 elderly DIE each year due to medication mismanagement.

By age sixty five, two thirds of all seniors have two or more chronic conditions requiring prescription medications.

By age eighty, 70% of elders have several chronic conditions:

  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Acid Reflux
  • Osteoporosis
  • Eye Disorders
  • Lung Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • Depression

Each chronic condition that is diagnosed adds an additional medication or two. This is a way of life for the elderly and is often too large a task for them to handle without support.

Side Effects of Multiple Medications

Side effects of these medications and interactions with each other require the ongoing study of an alert mind.

Elders need to be informed about each medication:

  • Its Purpose
  • Correct dosage
  • When taken
  • Side effects
  • Interaction possibilities

Over the counter medications are often used by the elderly along with vitamins, minerals, laxatives, herbs and pain remedies. Many of these over the counter medications were once prescription medications with potential drug interactions and side effects.

Many people do not understand the importance of informing their physician of all over the counter medications that they take routinely or occasionally. By not being informed, physicians do not have the opportunity to relay drug inter action information and in fact may be adding a drug that is similar to an over the counter medication already being taken—over dosing!!

Each time a new prescription or over the counter medicine is added to the regiment, there is an increase in potential side effects or interactions thus creating an increase in safety issues. Less than thirty percent of older adults take their medication correctly. Please read that again—less than 30% take their medications correctly!!!

Family involvement is imperative if there is any possibility that your elder is forgetful or confused. If the elder is unable to relate the purpose of each medication what condition it is treating when it is taken then your intervention is necessary.

The Solutions

There are many ways to individualize the medication regiment for your elder. You will know in which area of the process they need assistance. Please allow them their dignity in choosing where they need help. There are many ways to provide this assistance.

  • Obtain easy open bottles from the pharmacy.
  • Ask for large print labels.
  • Ask for different color medication bottles for specific medications.
  • Use a pill organizer-7 days-breakfast-lunch- dinner-bedtime. If able, allow the elder to fill the med box-with supervision.  If not, you fill the medication box. Purchase four boxes and fill them once a month.
  • Create a chart if opposed to a pill box.
  • Daily reminder phone calls from you.

Regardless of the method you and your elder choose, the most important issue is attendance at all doctor's appointments. Someone needs to go with the frail elder to each and every appointment.  Have your elder assigned to a specific nurse. The nurse will accompany your elder, get new prescriptions filled, make follow up appointments, fill the med box, and even call you with a report. You can get everything you need done.  Hiring a local private duty company such as Seniors Home Care will result in proper medication management.

Money well spent!!!


Dedicated To Eldercare

Written By: Alice Endy RN

Alice Endy is a Registered Nurse with a certification in Gerontology.

Alice has spent her entire career in the field of eldercare.

Being a sought after speaker and consultant, she spends most of her time researching trends and changes in eldercare.

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