If you are the adult child or family caregiver for a senior loved one, at some point you will likely need to help them find a way to safely manage their medications. Almost 90% of older adults take at least one medication each day. 41% of older adults live with health conditions that require them to take five or more medications each day. The more they take, the harder it is to safely manage them. According to the Institute of Medicine, mistakes with medicines send 770,000 people to the emergency room every year. In honor of National Talk About Prescriptions Month, we are sharing some of the common mistakes seniors make with medications. Below we have outlined some mistakes that can be useful medication management tips for your loved one.
Five Common Medication Mistakes Among Seniors
While not a comprehensive list, here are five mistakes older adults often make with their meds and tips for medication management:
1. Medication Interactions & Adverse Reactions. Older adults process medications differently than younger adults. It puts them at greater risk for adverse reactions, overdose, and interactions between medications. Some of the risk can be minimized by making certain each treating physician has a complete list of a senior’s prescriptions, and by using the same pharmacy consistently. The majority of pharmacies have programs in place that alert them if two of your medicines are likely to conflict and cause problems.
2. Not Following a Schedule. Medications for coronary artery disease and other chronic health conditions can be time sensitive. Forgetting to take a dose or taking doses too close together can make them ineffective or even cause an overdose. It is important to take prescriptions on time every time.
3. Improper dosage. When a senior takes multiple medications several times a day it is easy to mix up the dosages. It might mean taking too much of one while forgetting to take another one completely. In-home tech systems such as MedMinder or MedReady can help keep older adults on track.
4. Modifying the Drug Format. Difficulty swallowing, also known as aphasia, is common as we age. Caregivers and seniors often think it is safer to cut or smash medicine to minimize the risk of choking. If a medication has a time release component to it, changing the format can interrupt that schedule. It can lead to an older adult receiving too much medicine at one time. If your senior loved one has problems swallowing, check with their pharmacist before modifying a medication.
5. Improper Storage. Most of us store medications in the bathroom or kitchen because those rooms are where it is more convenient to take them. The problem is that these two rooms often have the greatest fluctuation in both humidity and temperature. Instead, keep medications in a drawer or cabinet in the bedroom.
If you would like to learn more about medication safety and receive additional tips on keeping a senior you love safe, visit the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE).