One constant that comes with aging we can all count on is more involvement with the community of healthcare providers
As a result more prescription medications that we the consumers are responsible for managing. This is not always an easy task: thirty-seven percent of older adults are responsible for taking and managing four or more prescription medications daily! The consequences for making a mistake with medication management can range from conditions that don’t improve all the way to emergency room visits and hospital admission. And “getting it right” can be as difficult as it is important.
How Well Are You Doing at Medication Management?
Answer for yourself these five questions:
- Do you keep an up-to-date list of all your prescription and non-prescription medications and take it to every appointment with all your healthcare providers?
- Do you ask your doctor about drug interactions every time a new medication is prescribed?
- Do you ask your pharmacist about interactions every time a new prescription is filled?
- Do you use a pill organizer?
- Do you safely dispose of all expired prescription drugs or drugs that you no longer take?
If you answered “yes” to all these questions, you are an educated and involved medical services consumer. If not, keep reading.
Your Medication List
Healthcare providers can’t check for drug interactions if they don’t know your big picture. If you have multiple healthcare providers, having an accurate list of all your prescription and non-prescription medications is even more important. Don’t assume each provider’s medical records system connects with those of your other providers; this is often not the case. Don’t trust your memory; the stress that comes with simply being inside a doctor’s office can be enough to make you forget what you’re taking. Finally, keep a copy of your list handy in your home for emergency responders; on the refrigerator is a good location.
An example: a study published by the National Institutes of Health says that an older adult’s risk of falling increases significantly with four or more prescription drugs per day when at least one of the drugs, such as blood pressure medication, is known to increase the risk of falling. Non-prescription over-the-counter medications can also interact with prescription medications. This is one reason that all non-prescription drugs (including vitamins) should be tracked on your list.
Medicines should not be taken directly out of the bottle or container; it is too easy to make mistakes such as forgetting, underdosing and overdosing. A pill organizer helps to ensure that the right medications will be (1) taken, (2) at the right time, and (3) in the right dose. Faithful use of a pill organizer can prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room or even hospital admissions.
Automated pill organizers are available from several manufacturers and are a good solution if forgetting is an issue. The pill bottle is taken out of the equation, medications are presented on a fixed schedule, and most organizers send a text message or email to a designated contact if a dose is presented but not taken from the machine.
For an older adult who has memory issues, a medication organizer by itself may not be enough to address the problem; many home care companies offer medication reminders as a part of their in-home services to ensure medications are taken on time.
Given the high cost of many prescription drugs, it can be very tempting—and very unwise— to hold onto them after your healthcare provider has told you to discontinue taking them or they have expired. A medicine cabinet containing these medications is a temptation for curious young children and teenagers who may want to experiment. The smartest course of action is to safely dispose of expired, untaken medications.
Flushing medications down a sink or toilet or putting them in the garbage is not safe and is bad for the environment. It should be done only if instructions with the medication call for it. A much safer alternative is community drug take-back programs. Police departments often provide facilities for safe disposal of prescription and over the counter medications. Locally, safe drug disposal drop-off is available at the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and the Peoria and Peoria Heights Police Departments. Call them in advance for more information about what is accepted.
AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home caregiving and nursing services, including medication management. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to . Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.