If you are caring for a senior loved one, chances are high that they’re taking at least one prescription medication for chronic or acute health concerns. It might be surprising to hear that more than half of seniors over the age of sixty-five report taking four or more prescription medications regularly. Staying on top of that kind of regimen would be challenging for any of us. But, for seniors living with any level of cognitive impairment or medical side-effects, the task of managing multiple medications and remembering when to take them all can be life-threatening if not done correctly. In fact, approximately 15% of all emergency room visits are seniors reporting medication reactions or problems with drug interactions.
Prescription medication misuse among seniors has more than doubled over the last decade, with almost all of it accidental. Caregivers should be on the lookout for the following concerns that could cause your loved one to misuse their medication:
- Memory loss may cause your loved one to forget to take their medication entirely or take too much.
- Vision decline can result in your loved one misreading dosing directions.
- Those with hearing impairments may mishear a doctor or pharmacist’s instructions.
- Being under the care of too many doctors may result in your loved one being prescribed too many medications that could potentially be harmful if taken together.
As a caregiver, properly managing your loved one’s medications is imperative to their health and well-being. The following tips will help you and your loved one stay organized and confident with their health care plan:
- If your loved one is experiencing some vision or hearing loss and can still manage their daily dosing, ask your pharmacist to print medication labels in large font and provide detailed written instructions.
- To keep track of multiple medications, make a complete spreadsheet that includes everything your loved one is taking, its purpose, the name of the prescribing doctor, dosing schedule, and any potential side effects or risks. There are many tracking templates online if spreadsheets aren’t your forte. Be sure to take this list with you to all doctor appointments for reference.
- Streamline your loved one’s medical care by minimizing the number of doctors they see. Ideally, your loved one should have a primary care provider who oversees their care and coordinates appointments with specialists when necessary. In addition, using only one pharmacist will add another layer of review and protection.
- Keep all medications in one place where they are easy to access. Consider organizing medications in a pillbox and investing in a medical alarm watch to set reminders for when medications need to be taken. You may also want to try using a med-tracking app like CareZone, which creates a shareable list of medications and can also track vitals and set reminders.
If you are caring for a loved one and are having trouble managing their medications, please consult their physician for guidance. You may also want to consider looking into alternative options like hiring an in-home care service or researching senior living communities, where your loved one will be well-cared for by on-site professionals.