It’s critical that caregivers are aware of the medications seniors must take, including the correct dosages and times for administration. Some seniors may become forgetful or confused and miss a dose or take a second dose by accident. Others may take the incorrect drug at the wrong time. It’s vital for caregivers to track and remind seniors about their prescriptions using a few medication management tips, products and plans to avoid the possibility of adverse drug events.
Ensuring that aging adults take their prescribed medications as directed can be a bit challenging for caregivers. Approximately 87% of Americans over the age of 65 take an average of four prescription drugs on a regular basis. Some might take as many as seven medications throughout a 24-hour period. Having a senior take their medications correctly, as prescribed, is a vital task for caregivers.
Here are 10 tips to help caregivers deal with medication management for seniors more efficiently.
Gather together all in one place the prescription drugs a senior must regularly take. The medications should be in their original containers from the pharmacist so the correct information can be viewed on the label. Make a list of each drug’s name, strength, dosage frequency and directions. Note any special instructions for each drug, such as “take with food.” Include the prescribing doctor’s name and phone number next to each medication. Include on the list any over-the-counter medications that are taken on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of each pill as a reminder of what the medication looks like. Keep this master list somewhere that can be easily seen and referred to.
It’s important that prescription drugs are given at a consistent time every day. It’s also helpful to take certain drugs with a meal, if doing so is mentioned as part of the instructions. Taking medications with a daily meal, such as breakfast, decreases the chances of forgetting to take it, since it becomes a habit over time to include a certain pill with the meal. Another tip is to remind someone to take medications at the beginning of a favorite television show or just before bedtime.
Create a daily medication chart or log that can be monitored and checked off as medications are taken The medication chart can be written down using paper and pen or created on a computer. A pharmacist may also be able to provide a blank medication log. It should include scheduling information that lists the time a drug needs to be taken, the drug’s name, how much should be given at that time and a small box with each day of the week listed that can be checked off as a drug is taken.
Many people find it very helpful to use a pill storage container that has a separate compartment for each day of the week to remind caregivers when a senior must take a pill on a specific day. Some larger containers can hold up to a month’s supply of pills. With these containers, each daily dose of medication is placed in its own compartment. If by the end of the day there are any pills remaining, it means some haven’t yet been taken. The most important part of utilizing a pill organizer is that the medication must be placed correctly in each compartment, with the proper dosage, for each day of the week. Of course, the container must be refilled weekly.
Use a cell phone’s alarm settings as a reminder that it’s time someone takes their medication. Multiple alarms with descriptions of what needs to be taken can be set.
Download a dosage reminder or pill reminder app on your smartphone, such as the interactive mobile apps Pillboxie or Medisafe. These applications send caregivers reminders when a medication needs to be given, and they also track the pills that have been taken.
Another option for caregivers is to use a medication alarm bracelet or watch that will also send alerts as a reminder to take medications.
These are great tools for medication management. These devices dispense the right medications on the day and time the user sets, and include an alarm to remind caregivers that the medication is ready to take. Most of these dispensers automatically lock when they’re not being used, which helps prevent seniors from taking the incorrect pills at the wrong time. Some provide an audio alert, noise or flashing light to let caregivers know it’s medication time.
Take notes if a senior’s mood or behavior changes when a new medication is taken, if a dosage is increased or decreased or if certain drugs are eliminated. These changes need to be discussed with the senior’s physician.
If it’s difficult for a senior or caregiver to open a pill bottle, ask the pharmacist to use prescription containers with easy-open caps. If reading the instructions on the labels is becoming an issue, the pharmacist can use large typing on the labels. Some pharmacies offer talking pill bottles or labels that provide verbal information about a medication’s dosage and other information via an app and a smartphone.