METRO — Medication management is an important issue for seniors and their families. Failure to properly manage medications can threaten the lives of seniors, highlighting the emphasis families must place on ensuring seniors take their medications in strict adherence to their physicians’ instructions.
Polypharmacy, or the taking of multiple medications for different conditions, can be a potential health hazard for the thousands of seniors who must manage health conditions with prescription drugs. Harmful drug interactions are a result of the confusion that can arise when seniors take multiple medications at the same time. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists estimates that more than 34 percent of senior citizens are prescribed medications by more than one physician, and 72 percent use medications they were prescribed more than six months prior. Many people also have begun “pharmacy shopping”to save money. According to a study published in 2010 in American Nurse Today, 44 percent of men and 57 percent of women older than age 65 take five or more medications per week, with some taking as many as 10.
Medication confusion is one risk, but older adults also metabolize medications differently than young people. As a result, they may be more susceptible to overdose or other ill effects. Families looking to help seniors effectively manage their medications should consider the following tips.
*Keep a running list of medications. Maintain a list of all medications being taken, noting both prescription and over-the-counter medications and any supplements and herbs. Provide a copy to any new doctors you visit and any new pharmacies you patronize.
*Use pill sorters. Medication sorters can keep medications organized and eliminate some of the personal error in medication management. Organizers have daily slots and may also differentiate between nighttime and daytime medications.
*Understand why each medication is being prescribed. Ask your pharmacist and doctor to explain why each medication is prescribed. This information should be printed on the prescription label. Some drugs designed for one symptom may actually be used to treat other issues as well.
*Ask for help. Some seniors may benefit from friendly reminders from a loved one regarding when to take certain medications, especially if they need to take multiple doses throughout the day. Cognitively impaired seniors may require the services of a visiting nurse or another caregiver.
*Recognize that not all medications are right for seniors. The American Geriatrics Society maintains a list of medications that older adults should avoid or take with extreme caution. Some drugs pose a high risk of side effects or interactions, while others are less effective. Discuss alternatives with your physician if you are prescribed one of these medications.
*Keep a medication diary. Record any side effects that occur and how the medications make you feel. Always bring up issues promptly with a doctor.
Proper medication management can help seniors avoid drug-related accidents or worse.