Care of the elderly: Managing medications

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | Jun 02, 2011

Care of the elderly will definitely include the management of medications because the vast majority of seniors are taking some type of medication for their health. In fact, nearly one quarter of all seniors currently take more than three pills per day. According to the National Council on Patient Information and Education, 34%of all prescriptions are written to those who are over 65.

When considering care for the elderly, the downside of the wide array of pills most seniors take is that few actually take their medication exactly as prescribed—some research puts the figure as high as 75% who do not take their medication as prescribed or on schedule. While this non-attention to either doctor’s instructions or the instructions on the bottle can happen for many reasons, the results can be potentially disastrous.

Care of the Elderly and Senior’s Reliance on Regular Medications


Most seniors don’t want to feel as though they are reliant on their medications and may even resent the fact that they are aging, therefore, may skip their necessary medications on purpose. In-home health care aides, or senior caregivers who specialize in care of the elderly can help remind the senior of their medications, making sure they stay on schedule; because they are trained professionals, the senior may be much more likely to take their advice thus taking their medicine as directed.

Some seniors may resent the children they have taken care of for a lifetime (even if that “child” is now in their 50s or 60s) telling them what they must do and what is good for them, so it’s much better if someone outside the family can impress upon the senior the importance of taking their medications on schedule. Care giving of the elderly can be a delicate balance of ensuring the senior is doing what is best for their health and safety while not appearing to be “bossing” them.

Care for the Elderly is Necessary to Avoid Medication Mix-ups


Medication mix-ups can be potentially lethal to the senior citizen as the elderly are especially vulnerable to drug interactions and serious side effects.  As we age, our bodies tend to store medicines more easily, but break them down much less efficiently. Some drugs must be taken in the morning, others at night, some on a full stomach, others only on an empty stomach, and all of this information must be coordinated when organizing a senior’s medications.

Nearly 25% of all nursing home residents actually end up there because they are unable to manage their prescriptions or have made medication mix-ups in the past. They may have made such serious mistakes that their lives were actually endangered, which is yet another reason care for the elderly becomes a necessity in many cases. Families of seniors may be unable to differentiate between the symptoms of a particular disease and the side effects of a medication, not to mention certain drug interactions.

Medication Management Systems in Care for the Elderly


Efficient care for the elderly can include a good medication management system. Most experts agree that a simple pill box may be the most efficient way of organizing prescription drug treatments. Most of these boxes will have labeled compartments for each day of the week, as well as several rows for medications that must be taken throughout the day. A system, whatever it may be, can drastically simplify the process of taking prescription medications. The problem with pill boxes is that they must be filled correctly and the senior must remember to take them throughout the day. You might want to look into the newer high-tech pill dispensers that issue an audible alert when it is time for the senior to take their medication.

Make a List for Efficient Care of the Elderly


Seniors who are currently taking more than five pills per day—or more pills than they actually need is known as polypharmacy, and is increasingly common among the elderly. The senior, his or her caregivers, and the senior’s doctors need to be increasingly vigilant to ensure each prescription has a clear purpose, that the benefits definitely outweigh the risks and that the patient’s well-being is always uppermost in their minds.

Asking questions can be one of the most important aspects of care of the elderly; information is power, and we are all much more likely to use something correctly if we fully understand why we need it. Experts extoll the benefits of simply making a list of all current medications, the correct dosages, and the times they should be taken. This list should include over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements as well as prescription drugs. Managing medications for the elderly can be problematic, but not unsolvable.

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