Daily medication is a part and parcel of aging. Prescribing medicine is the primary method by which physicians treat an illness and manage life-impacting and life-threatening conditions.
According to a 2016 study by the Canadian Institute of Health Information, 66% of the seniors in Canada have prescribed 5 or more drug classes per year, while 25% of the seniors are prescribed 10 or more drug classes per year.
With such a high volume and frequency of drug intake, medication management becomes an issue. A US study found that 55% of seniors fail to take medication according to their physician’s instructions, while around 200,000 seniors are hospitalized annually due to adverse drug reactions.
There are many reasons why seniors fail to take medicine according to prescriptions. These can include weak vision, memory loss, cognitive impairment, lack of affordability, swallowing issues and hearing loss. Various studies show that there is also a strong correlation between social isolation and failure to take medicine as prescribed.
However, medication management is not a daunting task. Here are a few tips for seniors and their caregivers to properly manage medication and minimize the risk of missed or wrong doses.
1. Keep all medicine in one location
If all the medicines are not stored together, it will cause confusion, and make it easy to mix or mess up while taking doses.
Medicines taken once a day should be stored where a senior is likely to sit. Medicines are taken multiple times a day should be kept at a central location. Good places to store medicine can include bedside tables, kitchen or dining tables and bathroom medicine cabinets. Bins can be used to separate over-the-counter medicine from prescribed medication.
Caregivers should help organize the medicine, check their expiry dates regularly and dispose of any expired medication.
2. Store medicine properly
Most medicines, if not all, are required to be stored in a dry place and away from direct sunlight and heat. Ironically, most people have a ‘medicine cabinet’ in their bathrooms. Bathrooms are wet and hot, which is the opposite of cool and dry.
Caregivers must ensure that all medications being taken by a senior are stored in cool and dry places. Some medications may require refrigeration. They should be stored on a separate shelf in the refrigerator.
Lastly, all medicine must be kept out of reach of children. Elderly Caregivers must ensure that medicines are placed in cabinets or on tables that are not easily accessible by any children living with or visiting the seniors.
3. Sort medicine every week
Sorting medicine before the beginning of the week can ensure proper management. If any pills need to be cut, they should be cut with a proper pill cutter at the beginning of the week and stored in an organizer to make it convenient for the senior to take them and avoid overdoses.
There are a variety of weekly or monthly pill organizers available in the market which the caregivers can use to help sort the pills for the seniors. Many pharmacies, such as Shoppers Drug Mart can presort the pills into blister packs making it very convenient for seniors to take them.
4. Clarify prescription instructions
Seniors can sometimes not comprehend how they need to take medicines. There must be no confusion as it can lead to improper dosage. Family members or caregivers should accompany seniors to doctor’s appointments or the pharmacy and make sure that there is no ambiguity around when and how to take the prescribed medicine.
5. Use a medication reminder and tracking tools
There are a number of technology solutions available to help seniors and their caregivers manage medication. The simplest solution can be one of many free smartphone apps available to manage and track medicine.
Many senior care companies, such as ConsidraCare have built medicine management and tracking into their caregiver assistance apps which can help the caregiver remember and keep track of medication for the seniors under their care.
6. Don’t miss refills
Different medicine run out at different times and need refilling. Family members and caregivers need to keep an eye on the medicine and ensure that the refills are obtained on time. Luckily, almost all major pharmacies in Canada have refill reminders and auto-refill services available to make sure that patients are never at risk of running out of critical medicine. Some can even deliver refills at home before a medicine runs out. Families/caregivers should ensure that the seniors are registered for such services.
7. Maintain a medication list
Seniors or their caregivers must maintain a complete list of all the medications, whether prescribed or over-the-counter and supplements. Health practitioners need this information before prescribing new medicine or changing the current doses.
If the senior is using a single pharmacy, it is possible that the pharmacy’s online platform already has a list of all the prescribed medicine. However, it will still be missing any over-the-counter medications or supplements. That is why seniors need their own up-to-date medicine list.
Medication management is a critical aspect of caring for seniors. Hence, medication management is an integral part of providing senior home care in Mississauga. The wrong dosage is common and can be life-threatening. Caregivers should ensure that a proper system is in place and the medicines are organized and stored properly to reduce the risk of wrong or overdosage or adverse reactions.
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