Ask any elderly person about the medications they’re taking. Chances are, it’ll be a lengthy checklist. After all, as aging parents continue to get older, more physical issues and discomfort become common. And in this age of medical advancement, there’s a pill for that. When prescribed responsibly, that’s a good thing, of course.
The concern isn’t just around accidental misuse or over-prescription. Problems arise in medication-usage with common side effects like dizziness, confusion, respiratory issues, and low blood pressure (just to name a few) can cause serious accidents.
One study from 2013 showed that one in five elderly patients discharged from the hospital experienced prescription-related complications within the first 45 days upon returning home. Roughly 35 percent of those instances were preventable, and 5 percent were life-threatening. Granted, this is an older study, but the pattern still exists now, just as it did then.
Keep your aging parents’ primary care physician in the loop on the medications they’re taking if prescribed by other specialists. Ensure they report any additions or changes in their prescription checklist to your aging parents’ primary physician.
Before attending doctor visits, take a picture of each bottle or container label along with the pill next to it. Show it to the physician upon regular visits to confirm they’re taking the correct meds.
Also, keep carefully written records of things like dosages and administration frequency, so they know how much is taken and when.
When adding or changing the dosages of medications, have the prescribing physician write down the details of taking the drug and any possible side effects.
Keep a close eye on your elderly loved one and remind them to let their physician know if they’re experiencing any odd symptoms.
Use one pharmacy to fill all medications (if possible), so all prescription information is easily accessible to the pharmacist. This way, the pharmacist can monitor drug interactions and answer any questions, including interactions between prescription and OTC drugs.
Thoroughly review the physician’s schedule and dosage instructions for each medication with your parents to ensure they understand how to take their medications appropriately.
Make sure they can easily open and close medication bottles and containers. Most find it a lot easier to use a pillbox to dispense daily meds because it’s more comfortable to open and easier to keep track of dosing.
If your parents have difficulty remembering when they’ve taken their medications or keeping their pillbox organized, locking organizers are a great solution. Many are available to program with the correct dosage and times to cut down on confusion. Many of these devices also feature prompts to remind your parents to take their medications at the proper time.
Periodically go through all their medications. Get rid of anything out of date or that they’re no longer taking.
Helping your aging parents manage their medications checklist often requires paying attention to detail, doing your homework, and maintaining plenty of communication.
The American Geriatrics Society publishes the Beers Criteria, a checklist of medications that may be inappropriate or potentially hazardous for aging parents. It’s a great place to begin and consult frequently with the feedback of their primary care physician.