Manage Your Medications

Medication compliance is one of the most frequent challenges with seniors.  Many times their medications are in a big shoebox or basket or scattered around the house.  This does not make it easy to see if the meds were taken on time or in the quantity that was prescribed.

It is important to find a method that meets the needs and limitations of the older adult.  Sometimes a sectored box will work.  Other times it might require a more sophisticated system that will only dispense at the time the medication is to be taken.  This system even gives a verbal message telling them to take the medications.  Another system available involves hooking up to a computer system that will record when the medications are being taken.  It will give a clear picture of the person’s history of taking medication.

The other issue is the number of medications being taken especially if the person is seeing multiple doctors.  It is important to take with you the medications that are being taken when visiting a doctor.  Periodically take a list of your medications to your pharmacist and ask if there are any duplications or medications that are interacting with another medication.  Any time a senior is taking over 8 medications, they are guaranteed of a side effect.  I often find seniors taking up to 13 medications or more.  This can cause some problems like increased anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, confusion, etc.  Ask your physician if there is something that you could take off the list.

Older adults should not take medications at the same level as a younger person.  When a medication is introduced, it should be given at a lower dose first and then increased as needed.  If your doctor does not treat older adults on a regular basis, he/she may not be aware that they are over-medicating the older adult.  When receiving a new medication, write down what you are taking and how often you need to take it before leaving the doctor’s office.  Many times after the patient leaves, they are unclear about how and when to take the medication.  Writing it down will ensure clarity.

If you feel that your medications should be reviewed, there are several geriatric pharmacists in St. Louis who will review and consult doctors on your behalf.

Keep a list of your medications, allergies and medical history with you when travelling.  Then if a healthcare event happens, the doctor in the area you are travelling will be able to treat with confidence knowing something of your history.

If an older adult is clear and organized in taking medications, they will be able to tell if the medication is working.  Take notes about how the older adult is feeling so that there is documentation if conditions suddenly change after the addition or removal of a drug.  These are just practical and safe ideas for managing the medications that are taken every day.

In summary, organize and track the medications that are being taken.  Keep a diary of how the patient is feeling each day after taking medications.  Be aware of the number of medications that a person is taking and try to reduce the number if possible.  Always take your medications in their original containers to the doctor’s office.  Keep a list with you when travelling in the event of a healthcare issue needing treatment.

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