Eldercare: The Importance of Medication Management

There are many of us of who have parents that have reached an age where they don’t yet need or what the services of a nursing home. They don’t qualify for home health care visits, and can’t afford the services of a personal care assistant to oversee they are taking their medications. A medication error from overdosing, missing doses, addiction, to forgetting to refill prescriptions, is a serious health concern among our senior citizens. Every case is different but their our some helpful hints that will help you organize the medications your parent’s take to make it much easier for them to keep to a schedule and know whether or not they have taken their medications. At the same time, it will help you know whether or not the medications are being taken as prescribed, at the correct dosages, and are being refilled regularly, with all new and discontinued drugs reported to their primary physician.

As people age they have a tendency to have more than one chronic condition that requires not only more than one prescription drug but also more than one doctor. It is of the utmost importance that all the doctors and/or specialists are kept informed of everything that your parents are taking (prescription, herbal, vitamins/supplements, and over the counter medications) to avoid any potentially harmful and sometimes fatal interactions. The following are some fairly simple things you can do to help your parent’s feel more independent and yet make sure they are using their medications safely.

1) Throw out any expired or discontinued prescription medications. The best way to accomplish this is by flushing the bottles contents down the toilet and throwing away the bottle. Use common sense with this by flushing only small amounts at a time and not flushing fiber/bulk tablets or powder�those can be emptied into trash and directly thrown away.

2) Make a list of all the medications, vitamins, supplements, herbs (this is very important), and over the counter treatments on a paper or recipe card (make a copy to keep in your files) to take to their next appointment and all other following appointments. Talk to them about how important it is that they show this list to each of the doctors they see at every visit and to make appropriate changes each time any medication changes are made. Some doctors will be more than happy to send an email or fax to their primary physician after each visit if there is any change in their condition or medications, if requested.

3) Make a health history, list of medications, allergies, emergency contact information, living will, primary care physicians name-number-address, any special considerations such as contacts, dentures, artificial limbs, pacemakerâÂ?¦etc, and insurance information. Place this in a clearly marked container in the refrigerator. There are containers that can be purchased at your pharmacy or department store with the forms if you would rather go that route. This way in an emergency the paramedics or other emergency personnel don’t have to look for the information or waste time trying to get their questions answered by a traumatized patient.

4) ALWAYS USE THE SAME PHARMACYâÂ?¦.Pick a pharmacy that you feel comfortable with and always use the same one to fill all your parents’ prescriptions. This is a double safe method of making sure that none of their medications from any of their doctors will counteract or interact negatively with another. Many pharmacies have delivery services, and will fill individual med boxes or unit doses for free or a small fee.

5) Using medication dose boxes is extremely helpful and convenient for seniors to put their daily dosages of medications. There are boxes for one time a day up to four times a day in labeled boxes (this come in several different sizes and colors). If you have two parents living in the same house taking medications it is essential the med boxes have obvious contrasting colors so they never mix up moms with dad’s medications. They also have medication holders with separate compartments and timers that you can set to beep when it is time to remind someone to take their medication.

6) Depending on how well your parents mental abilities and vision they can set up their boxes on a set day every week, or you can set aside the time to come over that day each week and feel their medication boxes for the next week or even day.

7) Insulin syringes are often hard for seniors to fill accurately. If they are on a standard dose of insulin each day you can fill the syringes for the week and put them in the same place each time in the refrigerator�.depending on whether or not their insulin requires refrigeration. If they take a different dose in the morning and a smaller dose in the evening you can still feel seven morning syringes and seven evening syringes but have a way of telling them apart either by marking them in some way with colored tape, sharpie, and always put them in 2 different places in the fridge. Creating a small special area for blood sugar testing is also very handy with fresh strips, alcohol swaps, monitor�etc. Give them a notebook or chart where they can write down the blood sugar number. It is easier for some then trying to look up the stored numbers on the machine. They need to take a record of their daily blood sugars each time they visit their doctor.

8) If you are in an area that offers a life line machine I highly recommend them. A monitor that sets on a shelf that has a direct hook up with the nearest hospital or monitoring station and a small remote that is worn around the neck, wrist, or pinned to clothing. In an emergency they only have to push the button on the remote to receive prompt help in any emergency situation.

9) If there is a trusted neighbor (if you don’t live nearby), it’s usually a good idea for them to have a key to the house and a plan to check in at least once a day.

10) Make sure to have the doctor, pharmacy, or yourself explain fully what the medication is supposed to do, what to expect, the dosage, symptoms of over dosage, side effects and when to call their physician if they notice any side effects.

11) If you can visit the doctor with your parents is a wonderful idea. If you are acting as their caregiver, you need to know what is going on.

12) Calling your parents daily when you are unable to visit will help you know must faster if something is going wrong�..you may notice a decrease level of alertness, slurring, memory loss. All of these and more can be discovered with one simple phone call and can quickly alert you to a situation before it gets out of hand.

13) Store regular medications in different location then medications that are taken on an “as needed basis” such as pain pills or antacids. Have a chart or notebook handy that your parent can write down the time when they take anything other than a regular medication dose. If you parents have problems with their site having a large print digital clock and color coding/ labeling the containers of the medications also helps. Do keep the full amount of pills of prescription painkillers, anti-anxiety, sleeping pills âÂ?¦etc accessible in the bottles. Using another type of medication container that is clearly labeled with the name, prescription, dosage, and instructions can work well for this also.

14) Medications that are not in use but that need to be stored should be either stored in an out of the way location or if needed locked box, or cabinet.

15) Display emergency contact information such as your name, number, and address or that of your first responder in large lettering prominently on the front of the refrigerator. It is a good idea to also mention on this sheet that you have a emergency information vial and it’s location (which should be in a prominent place inside the refrigerator.

Using these methods will also help to more accurately assess how capable and well your parents can take care of themselves. They will give you a much better chance of intervening before a parent becomes unduly ill from side effects or complications of taking their medications inaccurately. It also helps many seniors to avoid having to leave their homes any sooner than they actually need to due to medication non-compliance and enter the long-term institution system. You would be surprised how many seniors have been misdiagnosed with dementia, senility, and other brain disorders that have quickly been cleared up by just having their medications supervised and managed. Help your parents have the best quality of life they can by knowing the medications they take and being sure they are taking them correctly.

NOTE: The above suggestions are for seniors who are still mentally capable of knowing when to take their meds, the importance of taking them routinely and on time, what each medication is for, and will comply willingly to take their medications routinely without needing close personal supervision

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