Of the 90% of people aged 65 and older who take daily medications, nearly half take five or more drugs, according to AARP. While medications are meant to make us better, using them inappropriately, ineffectively, or unsafely can lead to complications from overmedication to dangerous drug interactions. Following medication guidelines is the only way to avoid adverse reactions and make sure that the prescription will be beneficial.
But with so many scripts for so many different things with so many different instructions, it can be hard to keep track of and manage multiple medications. Luckily, your loved one has you to help. We've rounded up the top seven tips when it comes to managing your loved one's meds.
AARP has a handy dandy Personal-Medication Record you can print out to list the names of your loved one's prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. It also includes the form (e.g., pill, liquid, injection), dosages, reason for use, and more. Fill this out together and keep it updated. Make copies or save it to a cloud drive for easy access on the go.
If you can, accompany your loved one to the doctor's office and ask for a drug-consultation. AARP recommends asking your loved one questions beforehand, such as what differences they've noticed since they started taking the drugs and what the hardest thing is about taking it. Bring the list of meds along with you and ask the doctor about the reason for your medication if it is unclear, as well as the possible risks, side effects, or dangerous interactions.
Confirm drug interaction information with your loved one's pharmacist. Ask for a patient profile form to complete. Provide information on their prescriptions, over-the-counter medications (vitamins, aspirin), and herbal remedies. According to AARP, "Medications can also interact with what we eat or drink, or with our activities." In addition to any other questions you may have, ask the pharmacist if it's safe to drink alcohol or drive on the prescription.
Medications should be stored in a cool, dry place, safely away from children or pets, and separate from other family members' medicines. Moisture and heat can affect the effectiveness of the drugs, so the bathroom is not a good place. Obviously stick them in the fridge if they need to be kept cold.
DailyCaring states that keeping medication in one spot helps you "see exactly what is being taken, make sure similar prescriptions aren't being prescribed for the same health condition, and know when to dispose of expired medications." They also recommend to "Use a separate bin for their backup medication supply or medicines that are only used occasionally."
One of the nicest things you can do for your loved one is to pre-sort their medications for the week using a pill organizer. If any pills need to be split, you can do so with a pill cutter. Some pill dispensers have a built-in alarm reminder. A "smart" pillbox, like the Tricella Pillbox contains sensors that connect to a smartphone application via Bluetooth to notify you if your loved one forgets and misses a dose.
For medications to do what they're supposed to do, they have to be taken in the prescribed doses at the right time--which is easier said than done. Set up a reminder system and a tracking log for your loved one if necessary. DailyCaring suggests creating a "simple chart with the medication name and dose, day, and time of day".
AARP's memory strategies include lists, calendars, notes to yourself, or an event-based approach that connects taking meds with a routine. Some people prefer to take their medicines when they wake up, go to bed, or at certain mealtimes.
Plan ahead for medication refills. Again, the organization is key. Put the refill dates on your calendar so you can have them filled an picked up before your loved one misses a dose. For long-term medications, ask the doctor for a 90-day supply to be prescribed through a mail-order pharmacy. This way, you have less to worry about and don't even have to step foot in the pharmacy!
Amazon's online pharmacy, PillPack is giving traditional pharmacies a run for their money. They manage refills, review medications, and work with insurance companies. Not only are your loved one's prescriptions delivered to their door monthly, but they're also sorted by the dose! They carry everything from inhalers to insulin, but not Schedule II drugs (narcotics like oxycodone, codeine, and opiates). Game changer. If you're don't feel like you're tech-savvy enough for all that, check with your pharmacy to see if they offer automatic refills and/or delivery.