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Senior Care Notes: It's Easy to Mismanage Medication

Ed Rofi / Mainline Media News

Medication mismanagement is one of the leading causes of hospitalization for seniors. As people age they typically take more medications. The average senior citizen uses more than five different medications each day not counting over the counter drugs and vitamins, so it is understandable that mix-ups can easily occur.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, 55 percent of the senior population are non-compliant with their prescription drug orders. Declining vision, small print on medication labels, the onset of memory loss and economic reasons can all contribute to the problem. Monitoring a senior’s adherence to the medication plan is one of the most important tasks that a caregiver can perform.

If memory loss is a problem, a weekly or monthly pill organizer, by time and day can be very useful and will help avoid overdoses and missed doses. Some pill organizers can be equipped with audio or linked to a phone call. Some sophisticated units are capable of sending an email if the medication is not removed from the unit at the appropriate time.

An updated list of all medications should be maintained, including over the counter products and this list should be distributed to all of the attending physicians. This procedure will help to prevent drug interactions that can cause unwanted effects and reduce the efficacy of one or more of the prescribed drugs. In some cases drugs can interact with food or drinks, for example, grapefruit juice should not be taken with certain blood pressure lowering medications. Drug and alcohol interactions can happen so the labels of all medications should be checked for warnings.

It is best to use one pharmacy so the pharmacist will be aware of all medications and can lookout for possible drug interactions. The pharmacist can be a senior’s best friend with advice on interactions, side effects, and the impact of over the counter medications. Asking the pharmacy to print larger labels can help with vision problems. Some pharmacies offer compliance packaging designed to simplify medication regimens by providing seven-day or 30-day multi-dose blister packs tailored to a specific individual’s need. This method provides grouping of medications to be taken at specific times of the day. If a dose is skipped, it can easily be determined from the blister pack.

If income is a problem, there may be help available. Research Senior Prescription Assistance Programs on the Internet. Check drug manufacturers websites to find out if discount programs are available.

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