Having to take many pills each day, sometimes several times a day, can make it very difficult to do it correctly.
When seniors don’t get it right, the outcome can be deadly.
It has been estimated that 60% of seniors take their medications incorrectly. This results in almost 140,000 deaths a year. For others, making mistakes taking their pills can impact the effectiveness of their medications.
Common Medication Mistakes
Statistics show that nearly 70% of seniors have at least one medication, 50% take at least two medications, and 25% take five or more medications (that number jumps to 46% if your senior is over 70).
These numbers are just the prescribed medications and don’t include a multitude of over-the-counter aids or supplements many seniors use daily. It isn’t uncommon for some seniors to be taking more than 20 drugs a day.
We shouldn’t be surprised that seniors use more pills and potions of all kinds than any other age group.
That is a lot of pills to remember to take correctly. Here are some common examples of what can go wrong.
- Skipped doses – 1 in 4 seniors skip a dose
- Failure to fill a prescription
- Taking drugs at the wrong time or wrong dose such as forgetting to cut in half
- Eating a food or beverage that will interact with a medication
- Not monitoring vital signs when needed before dosing like blood pressure or sugar
- Mixing up similar medications taking them at the wrong time or in the wrong amount
- Not informing all doctors or health professionals about what you are taking which may result in double dosing or interactions
- Stopping a drug because they think it isn’t working
- Not paying attention to side effects that could be creating medical problems.
It is very important that seniors and family caregivers recognize any adverse reactions when taking medications. Adverse reactions due to medication administration errors or new drugs can be very serious, including falls, depression, confusion, hallucinations and malnutrition.
In addition, memory loss and vision impairment caused by mismanagement of prescriptions can lead to more problems including continued medication errors.
Tips for Family Caregivers
With these tips, family caregivers can help senior loved ones manage their medications.
- Listen to the instructions from your senior’s doctor or pharmacist. If you have any questions at all, ask until you and your senior fully understand. Read the drug facts label and package inserts to learn more about your senior’s drugs.
- Bring all medications to the doctor once a year so that the medical professional can review each one to ensure they are still appropriate and no interactions exist.
- Keep a current medication list, including full name of the medication, dosage, and time so that it can be used at each medical visit and emergency healthcare situation.
- Talk to the pharmacist. This professional can check for potential interactions, put pills in easy to use and read containers, and give you any information you need to learn more about your senior’s drugs including the over-the-counter pills. Using one pharmacy will help keep your records clear and avoid interactions.
- Set up pill boxes for your senior. It can be weekly pill boxes that are found in all drug stores or monthly like the Pillrite. This product includes a medication list and emergency information. (We were able to test the Pillrite and our senior tester loved the ease of filling, med list info, unique way the week pillbox opened for filling and the way AM and PM were separated.) Pillrite also has an informative video if you would like to learn more about this effective product. In addition to these pill boxes, there are also smartphone apps linking to their pillbox that caregivers may like that gives remote alerts when pills are not taken as they should.
- Be sure medications are stored properly especially if it should be refrigerated. Also read the label instructions to be sure it is taken properly – with food, not with milk, after a meal, with full glass of water, etc.
Medications can be life saving for our senior loved ones and contribute to the highest quality of life.
Proper administration of medications will help them attain their goal of healthy and independent aging.