For seniors, the importance of effective medication management cannot be overstated. Many elderly people take multiple medications simultaneously to treat different medical conditions and various symptoms. In medical parlance, this is known as polypharmacy. Polypharmacy affects more than 40 percent of elderly adults living in their homes. While we have grown accustomed to seniors taking a number of prescription medications and vitamins each day, polypharmacy has many risks, including overmedication and dangerous drug interactions. This post will discuss medication management tips for seniors and their caretakers.
Understand why each medication was prescribed.
For older adults who take multiple prescription medications, it is important to know why each medication was prescribed. This can help healthcare providers understand whether an elderly patient has been prescribed too many medications to treat the same issue. It can also help you and your doctors determine whether a medication was prescribed “off-label,” or for a condition it wasn’t intended to treat.
Create and maintain an up-to-date list of all medications.
One way to reduce the risk of dangerous drug interactions and overdose is to create and maintain an up-to-date list of all medications that you or your loved one takes, including over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. Make a note of the dosage instructions for prescription drugs. If you are a caretaker, ask your loved one about how often he or she takes over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin and allergy medications, and whether he or she uses vitamins or supplements. Bring the list to every doctor’s appointment. Responsible doctors will check the list thoroughly before prescribing new medications.
Minimize the number of healthcare providers and pharmacies.
Keeping the number of doctors and pharmacies you or your loved one uses to a minimum makes it easier to coordinate care. The more doctors you or your loved one sees, the more likely it is that an adverse drug reaction or over-medication will occur. Using only one pharmacy if possible helps ensure appropriate dosage and reduces the risk of dangerous drug interactions.
Ask your loved one’s doctor about age-appropriate dosage.
As bodies age, they metabolize various drugs differently. Seniors can be more sensitive to some drugs – including over-the-counter drugs – and less sensitive to others. Seniors are also more likely than younger people to experience adverse effects of medications. Ask your doctor, or your loved one’s doctor, whether dosages should be increased or decreased accordingly.
Maintain an open dialogue with doctors and pharmacists.
If you have concerns about the combination of medications that you or your loved one is taking, or about the effects of a new medication, don’t be afraid to ask a doctor or pharmacist questions. They can help you learn about potential side effects, appropriate dosage, proper storage, and how to take each medication correctly. Before stopping medication of any kind, consult with a doctor or pharmacist.
Tell doctors about previous adverse drug side effects or reactions.
If you or your loved one has had an adverse or allergic reaction to medication in the past, let doctors know about it. Sometimes, you or your loved one’s doctor may ask whether immediate blood relatives have had adverse reactions to certain drugs. Your doctor or pharmacist will take this information into account when prescribing new medications.
Keep medications organized.
Anyone who takes multiple medications must take steps to keep medications organized. All drug stores and pharmacies sell pill organizers, which allows seniors to see when they have taken their medications on a given day. There are also pill organizers that have an alarm clock function, which can help seniors avoid missed doses. If you are a caregiver, you might want to consider printing out a daily medication schedule in large font for your loved one’s reference.
About Senior Path:
We are a professional, senior housing advisory service which provides personal attention to Seniors and their families. We employ a staff of talented, caring Advisors who have vast experience helping Seniors and their families through this transition. Our Advisors have extensive backgrounds in the Senior Care industry enabling them to understand what Seniors want and need.
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