Being a caretaker for the elderly at home has many facets and is a grave responsibility. If you’re a caretaker for an elderly parent or an aging loved one, you need to learn about medication management.
Most seniors take more than one medicine throughout the day. According to studies, 87% of seniors take one prescription drug, while 36% of seniors take five or more medicines and 38% of seniors use over-the-counter medications. Taking multiple medications can make it very easy for a mix-up to happen. These mix-ups are extremely risky and can prove to be dangerous and even fatal. When providing elder care, keeping a close eye on the medications of your loved ones and understanding the purpose of each medicine is crucial and can help in keeping them safe. Some of the reasons why medication management is extremely important when you are an old age caretaker at home include:
- Multiple health conditions and multiple doctors: Seniors who are seeing multiple doctors or have more than one health condition may be prescribed more medications.
- Drug interactions: Certain medicines cannot be taken together or with specific drinks and food.
- Intentional or accidental discontinuation of treatment: Older adults may unintentionally forget or deliberately choose to skip doses or discontinue treatment.
While the above factors can be worrisome, as an elder care provider, there are steps you can take to practice medication management and help your loved one stay safe. Bringing about a simple system in place and taking care of the basics can help the elderly in avoiding common medication mistakes such as missing doses, taking the wrong drug, or taking the wrong dosage. Here are a few important tips and tools suggested by the best home care nursing experts help older adults safely manage their medications and avoid any possible medication complications.
- Create and maintain an up-to-date medication list: Make sure you record the name of each prescribed medicine, over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, and supplement. Also, record the dosage, the timing to take the medicine, the health provider who prescribed each medicine, the purpose of each medicine, the symptom it is supposed to treat, and the duration of usage.
- Make sure the medication is stored properly: Medicines should in general be kept in a cool and dry place and should be kept away from heat and moisture. Make sure to keep the medicines away from children and pets. Additionally, make sure to follow the pharmacist or doctor’s instructions if a medication requires specific storage, such as refrigeration.
- Pre-sort medications for the week: Staying organized is essential for good medication management for the elderly. You can use a pill organizer to help your older adult pre-sort their medications for the week. If a pill needs to be split and taken, make sure to do this in advance and put the halves in their designated pill organizer compartments so the adults do not take the whole pill by mistake.
- Double-check for any negative drug interactions: when taking multiple medicines, it is very important to double-check and make sure that none of them cause negative drug interactions. You can check with your doctor and pharmacist for any possible drug interactions. Additionally, you can use an online drug interaction checker as well. Call your doctor or pharmacist right away if any interactions are found.
- Make sure all medication-related instructions are clear: Make sure you and your older adult understand which medications can be taken at the same time and which need to be spaced out. Make sure they understand all the medication-related instructions clearly. If there’s any confusion, do not hesitate to ask the doctor for explanations and detailed instructions.
- Set up a medicine reminder and tracking system: A medication reminder system and tracking log will help your elderly know and be assured that they have taken the right medicines at the right times. They can notes with pen and paper. You can also create a simple chart with the medicine name and dose, day, and time of day for the older adult to checkmark. You can set a reminder for when it is time to take the medication by setting a series of alarms on your mobile phone or by using medication management apps.
- Help seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s with their medication: If your older adult is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia or seems confused about their medicine, they will need your help with medication. In such cases, a reminder system may not be helpful and any incorrect medication can cause serious harm. You need to personally supervise their medication to ensure their safety and good health or home care nursing is recommended to keep their medication schedule always monitored.
- Understand any potential side effects of the medicines: Make sure to talk to your doctor and pharmacist and understand the potential side effects or any health changes that can happen after your older adult starts a new medicine, increase/decrease the dose, or combine medicines differently to keep an eye out for any complications.
- Explain to your loved one about the risks of self-prescribing: Your older adult may sometimes be tempted to change the dose of a certain medication or add an over-the-counter medicine to treat a symptom faster or get quicker relief. However, self-medication increases the risk of drug interactions and overmedication and can cause serious harm. The caregiver needs to explain to the older adult and stress the importance of taking medication as prescribed and to make sure they are aware of the dangers of self-prescribing. Home attendants for the elderly keep an eye on the elders on their medicine schedules and don’t let them self-prescribe medicines. The focus is on addressing health concerns with proper consultation with the doctor and getting quality health assistance.
- Plan for medication refills: to avoid running out of medicines and missing doses, it is important to get refills on time. You can ask your doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply through a mail-order pharmacy for regular medicines. Some pharmacies also offer automatic refills and notify you when the prescribed medicines are ready to be picked up. You can avail of free prescription delivery services, medication coordination services, discounts, etc. offered by many physical and online pharmacy services.
If you are an elder care provider practicing medication management, make sure that your loved ones are on a goal-directed medical therapy, track signs of any complications, and keep an eye out for any potentially harmful medications. Learning how to properly manage your loved one’s medications is critical and one of the most important responsibilities of an elderly caretaker.
Elcare is an elderly care service provider that is dedicated to improving the physical and mental wellness of elders via various services including home nursing services and private duty nursing. For information about our Health & Wellness Advisory and other services, call us on 08045914567.