Multiple doctors, multiple medications, multiple pharmacies…all a common reality for many aging adults. But when medications are not managed properly, they can cause more damage than good. Here are some top tips for medication management for seniors from an Aging Life Care Professional™.
Proper Medication Management Can Reduce Problems that Plague Seniors
by Bunni Dybnis, MA, MFT, CMC – Aging Life Care Association™ Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy
As people age, they are more likely to deal with one or more health problems. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nearly three out of four people aged 65 or older have multiple chronic health conditions. The treatment for many conditions associated with aging such as high blood pressure, depression, and arthritis includes medication. Many older adults also face declining eyesight, grip strength, mobility, and memory issues. As our bodies change, the way medications work in the body also changes. The implications are frightening.
- 40% of older individuals both in the community and in nursing homes are using at least one inappropriately prescribed medication. Those being discharged from the hospital is even higher.
- The number of hospital admissions for those over 45 for medication and drug-related conditions has more than doubled in recent years. (Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality)
- For those over age 50, 51% of all emergency room visits are due to adverse reactions to medications. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Nearly one in three hospital admissions and readmissions of the elderly are linked to problems or harmful side effects due to medications. This can include depression, constipation, falls, immobility, confusion, and hip fractures.
There are several ways either a family member, friend or an Aging Life Care Professional™ can reduce or even eliminate medication-related problems.
1. Know what is being taken. Keep an updated list of each medication including both over-the-counter and prescription medications. To avoid duplication, include why the medication is being taken, who prescribed it, the dose, frequency, any special dosing instructions (with or without food), and noticeable side effects.
2. Have a medication management member of the healthcare team. In addition to attending appointments, make sure either a trusted family member or a professional has permission to call the doctors or hospital to ask questions or express concerns on behalf of the senior. Due to HIPPA privacy relations, this is essential. During each visit, especially if there has been a hospitalization or change in medical status, one should ask the following:
- Are all medications still necessary?
- Should any medications be changed because they are unsafe due to interactions with other medications?
- Are the doses appropriate given the person’s age and weight? If a physician is not familiar with prescribing medications specifically to an older population, there are Geriatric Pharmacists that can be hired for consultation.
- Is there a way to reduce the number of times per day the medication is taken?
3. Read the directions. Read both the inserts in prescription medications as well as the Drug Facts on the side of over-the-counter medications. Consult a pharmacist if anything is unclear.
4. Provide a system for or assistance in keeping track and monitoring medications. This can include coordinating a daily routine, providing a list of instructions for all medications, placing sticking notes as reminders, or setting up a pill box organizer. If there are multiple routine medications, ask your pharmacist about “bubble packs”.
3. Set up a reminder system. An alarm either on a clock radio or cell phone, or a call reminder can also make a huge difference.
4. Use technology. Smartphones, text messages or sophisticated medication monitoring systems can be utilized. This is contingent on the older adult being able to access and take proper medications. A Google search on “medication management” will reveal many “apps” and websites specializing in medication reminders. .
5. Provide assistance to remind and administer medication. A family member, friend, neighbor, or formal caregiver can assist in the purchasing, setup, prompting, or providing of medications for those that aren’t able to do it themselves. However, some caregiver agencies have limitations for the level of medication assistance non-medical caregivers can provide. If you use an agency, ask about their policies.
6. Check for interactions. Because many adults over age 65 are often taking multiple medications, drug interactions are a huge concern. The Food and Drug Administration has created a list of tips to avoid common drug interactions and AARP has an online tool to type in and check for potential problems. You should always consult a pharmacist if you have questions.
7. Know what medications to avoid. Cross referencing medications with the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults will give you a list of medications that those over age 65 should avoid.
When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, making sure all aspects of medication purchasing and administering are being addressed can help resolve many of the problems associated with aging. It can be an overwhelming task to the older adult and family alike. Hiring an Aging Life Care Professional™ as part of the team can bring peace of mind to all involved. Find one at aginglifecare.org.
About the author: Bunni Dybnis, MA, MFT, CMC is Director of Professional Services for LivHOME in Los Angeles, CA. Bunni is an Advanced Professional and Fellow of the Leadership Academy of the Aging Life Care Association.
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This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.