Is your elderly parent struggling to manage prescription medications? If so, you’re not alone. A staggering 83% of adults over the age of 65 are taking at least one medication, with as many as half of all seniors taking 5 or more medications at one time. Staying on top of that kind of regimen would be challenging for any of us, whether at home or in a senior living community. It’s doubly-hard for those suffering from any level of cognitive impairment or medical side-effects (or both). A look at ER statistics gives a glimpse at the fallout, with roughly 15% of all visits this year due to seniors’ medical reactions or drug interactions.
Are you concerned about your parent’s ability to manage their medications? Here are some steps you can take to get on top of the situation and help prevent serious problems, even if they live away from you (e.g. in a senior living community):
- Take Stock of All Medications.
Make a complete list or spreadsheet of medications that Mom is taking, including their exact name and purpose; the prescribing physician(s) and contact info; dosing schedules; and any potential side effects or risks to avoid. Include a comments section for other helpful info, such as whether the medications are on automatic refill, and what dates they’ll need to be called in. There are many tracking templates available online to help, including one from the AARP that’s available in both English and Spanish. Make sure this list lives with you and any of mom’s caregivers, as well as in at least 2 locations in her home or apartment.
- Touch Base with Mom’s Medical Team.
Because seniors are apt to be seeing multiple doctors, there’s always the potential for medications to be prescribed together without the proper coordination among practitioners. Make it a point to attend your parent’s next round of doctors’ appointments, taking that opportunity to thoroughly review her list of current medications. Ask each prescriber: is this medication still necessary? Do any adjustments need to be made, based on blood work or other factors? And don’t be shy about asking if there are ways to streamline her medication schedule, perhaps by switching medications. If Mom is having trouble taking something 4 times a day, for example, there may be an equally effective medication that only has to be taken twice a day. Your mom’s pharmacist is also an excellent resource for tracking medications, talking through potential side effects, and underlying best practices regarding physician guidelines. Pharmacy staffers often have more time than the doctor does for reviewing aspects of care that might bear further explanation or discussion.
- Help Mom Get Organized at Home.
First, make sure she’s storing her medications properly – not in a medicine cabinet, where moisture can reduce their effectiveness, but in a cool dry place where they are easily accessible, like the kitchen counter. Make sure medications are stored in the refrigerator only if directed on the bottle.
Set mom up with a pillbox that’s easy to open and maintain, or consider getting her a medical dispenser or alarm watch to help remind her of what to take and when. Amazon has a great selection of products to choose from, along with helpful customer reviews. And if she’s savvy with a smartphone, you might suggest she download a med-tracking app like CareZone which is one we particularly like. Not only does it help create a shareable list of medications, but it also can track useful vitals like blood pressure and glucose levels, remind mom when it’s time to take her meds, and even arrange for home delivery.
Taking care of an aging loved one can be rewarding, but challenging. We’ve created a caregivers toolbox that helps orientate and make the journey less overwhelming for at home care or the transition to senior living. Take a look!