6 Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Medication Mistakes

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Fred, a ninety-year-old with congestive heart failure, was prescribed a diuretic to help eliminate fluid from his system. It worked and he got better. So he quit taking the medication. It was one less pill he had to worry about. He viewed the prescription as a temporary medication when the doctor actually intended for him to keep taking the prescription. Soon the fluid began to build up again and Fred was back in the hospital.

Nearly 20 percent of seniors surveyed by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, who are taking five or more prescription medications, reported challenges in managing their medication regimen including understanding directions for taking the medications.

Following, from Home Instead Senior Care and Dr. Jane Potter, geriatrician and director of the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, are suggested ways to help minimize the risk of medication mistakes.

1. Get a pill organization system or service

Approximately 50 percent of patients do not take their prescriptions as prescribed, according to the 2011 study, “Medication Adherence: WHO Cares?”. That’s why a pill organizer can be such an important tool.

2. Make one doctor the gatekeeper to manage medications

It’s typical for an older adult to have multiple doctors, which is potentially dangerous. Most people assume that doctors talk to one another, but you can’t assume that’s the case. Dr. Potter suggests that your senior designate a primary doctor as the gatekeeper. It’s best to keep a list of all providers and who is managing what, and update the list at least annually or whenever a change in medications is made.

Download a free Medication tracker worksheet.

3. Keep regularly scheduled appointments and an open dialogue with your loved one’s health care provider

Encourage your senior loved one to keep regularly scheduled appointments and maintain open communication with the doctor to help avert medication problems. Consider writing down questions in advance so you and your loved one remember everything you intended to discuss during an appointment.

4. If your senior is having trouble paying for medications, talk with the doctor

One of the biggest deterrents to medication adherence is cost. If an older adult is having trouble paying for a medication, discuss this with the doctor and pharmacist. Generic options can be cheaper and some pharmaceutical companies offer discounts.

5. Discuss any problems an older adult may have in taking a medication, such as the inability to swallow or difficulty opening a pill bottle

Solutions exist for some medication challenges. For instance, a liquid can be prescribed as an alternative to pills for some medicines. What’s more, pharmacists are required to provide easy-open bottles that can help individuals with arthritis. Discuss these options with your senior’s pharmacist.

6. Consider a caregiver

Help a senior assess the risk of medication mismanagement or side effects by going to the Let’s Talk About Rx℠ Solutions Guide. If your loved one needs additional care support, consider hiring a caregiver companion. Contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office to learn more.

For more medication management tips and resources, including conversation starters and additional tips to avoid medication mistakes, visit www.LetsTalkAboutRx.ca.