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Tips for Managing Seniors' Medicine

Many elderly adults struggle with the complications of having multiple doctors, multiple medications and multiple pharmacies. This can lead to improper medication management which can cause more damage than you may think.

  • Studies show that 40% of senior citizens in the community and in nursing homes are using at least one inappropriately prescribed medication.

  • The number of hospital admissions for those over 45 for medication and drug-related conditions has more than doubled in recent years. (Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality)

  • 51% of all emergency room visits for those over age 50 are due to adverse reactions to medications. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

  • Nearly 1 in every 3 hospital admissions of the elderly are linked to problems or harmful side effects due to medications. This includes depression, falls, immobility, constipation, hip fractures and confusion.

Here are several ways family members and friends can help you reduce and eliminate medication-related problems:

1. Fully understand what medication is being taken.

Keep an updated list of each medication you take, both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Include for what reason the medication is being taken, who prescribed it, the dosage amount, frequency it is taken and any special instructions (such as taking it with/without food) and noticeable side effects. This helps avoid duplication and keep everything documented and in order, for the aging adult's convenience and awareness.

2. Enlist a trusted medication management member as part of your healthcare team.

In addition to doctor's appointments, make sure that a trusted family member or a professional is granted permission to contact the doctors or hospital to inquire or express concerns on behalf of the senior. Due to HIPPA privacy relations, this is an essential part of medication management. During each visit, especially if the senior has been hospitalized or experienced a change in medical status, one should ask:

  • Are all medications still necessary?

  • Should any medications be changed because they are unsafe when combined with other medications?

  • Are the medicine doses safe given the person's age and weight? If the physician does not usually work with seniors, there are special Geriatric Pharmacists that can be hired.

  • Is there a way to reduce the number of times per day the medication is taken?

3. Read the directions on the medication carefully.

Study both the inserts in the prescription medications as well as the Drug Facts on over-the-counter medication packaging. Consult your pharmacist or doctor if you are unclear on anything or have concerns about the side effects.

4. Create a system for keeping track of medications.

By coordinating a daily routine, providing a list of instructions for all medications, writing notes as reminders or setting up a pill box organizer, you can significantly reduce senior's risk of forgetting to take or taking too much medication. If there are multiple routine medications, ask your pharmacist about "bubble packs" which consist of wrapping medications in plastic packaging that are marked for each day, time of day and dose (one for a.m., one for p.m. and so forth) and makes taking medication less confusing for patients and caregivers. Click here to see the different types of bubble packs.

5. Set up a reminder system.

Either an alarm clock, cell phone alarm, or fall reminder can make a differen