Every day in America seniors are taking their medications – some morning, noon and night. Medications may be needed to manage a chronic disease or to treat an acute illness such as an infection.
While no laughing matter, the number of medications needed by some seniors has become easy fodder for comedy.
The serious side of the numbers of medications needed is the risk of mismanagement, which can bring with it consequences ranging from loss of effectiveness to – in the extreme – death.
First some facts about our senior loved ones and their medications.
Senior Medication Facts
- Seniors take 34% of all medications prescribed
- Seniors purchase 30% of all over the counter medications sold
- Seniors take between two and seven prescription medications daily
- According to a recent survey of 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries, 40% of patients reported taking five or more prescription medicines
It is important that your senior learns all he can about his medications (and you too). Knowing all you can may help prevent complications or ineffective disease control.
Medication Management Tips
- Keep a list of all medications, dosages, and schedules. Have your senior carry it with her in case of emergency. Don’t forget to update it whenever any changes are made. (yes, there’s an app – or 30 – for that)
- Know the names of all your senior’s medications, both the trade name and the generic name.
- Know why the medication was prescribed – what disease or illness.
- Be aware how each medication should be stored and be sure it is stored correctly. Some medicines need to be refrigerated or stored in a particular temperature. Keep medications in a dry location and away from the sink, bathroom steam or hot appliances like the stove.
- Always ask your senior’s doctor or pharmacist if there are any interactions that could occur. There may be drug to drug interactions, food to drug interactions or supplement to food/medication interactions which can affect the medications effectiveness. Be sure the doctor and pharmacist know about all the medications being taken, including over the counter medications and supplements which may interact.
- Be sure your senior is taking his medications at the prescribed time of day; some are intended to be taken before or after meals or first thing in the morning.
- Does the medication need to be taken with food or after eating? Does it need to be taken with water only or is milk to be avoided?
- Read the package inserts as available so that you and your senior are fully aware.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any side effects to be aware of before your senior takes a new drug. Continue to have your senior take medications as prescribed if she experiences unexpected effects (unless the doctor has directed otherwise) and contact the doctor immediately.
- Find out if it is ok to drink alcohol when taking medications – if not, don’t.
- Keep all medications in their original containers, removing cotton balls if added.
- Keep all medications out of the reach of children or grandchildren, out of sight and locked if possible to prevent accidents.
- Continually read the label for expiration dates and dispose of expired medications properly, though not down the toilet as it can contaminate water supply. It is ok to throw in trash, preferably mixed into coffee grounds (or other type of trash) and placed in plastic bags. If desired, keep expired or unneeded medications safe and return to pharmacist or community “give back” event.
It can be a lifesaver for seniors to have access to prescription medications but they have to be taken correctly to be effective in treating chronic diseases. If taken incorrectly, serious effects can occur. By learning all you can and following the tips above, you can keep not only your senior healthy but also visiting children safe too.