Medication management can be confusing! This is especially true if you (or your loved one) are juggling a number of different prescriptions with different dosages, time intervals, and instructions for use.
It’s almost impossible to avoid this situation though – medications play an important and expanding role in health care, particularly as our population ages. We are all more likely to develop one or more chronic illnesses as we grow older, but with appropriate medication, we are expected to live much longer and lead more active lives.
However, medication use in older adults is also more likely to be associated with serious safety concerns. Here are a couple of key questions that can help you to determine whether it’s time to get some help to manage the risks and ensure that all medications (prescription or otherwise) are being taken correctly and safely:
- Are you (or a loved one) having trouble remembering to take your tablets?
- Are you on prescription and over the counter medication?
- Have there been significant changes to your medication in the last three months?
- Do you take medicines that require regular monitoring such as anticoagulants or insulin?
- Do you have difficulty managing your medication because of poor vision, confusion, or difficulty opening packaging?
- Do you take more than 3 different types of medications every day?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, it makes sense to call us for a consultation and a medication review. We can assist you to identify potential risks and practical solutions to manage your medication better every day, while you remain in the familiar surroundings of your own home.
Why is Medication Safety a Concern for The Elderly?
As the number of prescription medicines available and the population of older adults continue to grow, the potential for medication safety problems is also expanding.
As you age, you are much more likely to be prescribed multiple kinds medication, and in most cases you will take three or more different drugs each day. This significantly increases the risk for drug interactions, mix-ups, and adverse side effects.
In addition to chemical reactions, the effects of aging also cause your body to process and respond to medicines differently, than when you were young. Age-related transformations in the heart, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and brain are among the contributing factors that you to become vulnerable to overdose and side effects.
In addition, financial issues may prevent seniors from filling some prescriptions, which means you may not be receiving the right medication (or dose) as prescribed by your physician.
Let’s examine together some of the risk factors that make medication management so vital – especially for the elderly. Seniors should definitely ask for help from their family, caregiver, doctor, or chemist if they:
- Live alone
- Take 3 or more medications, including over the counter, herbal, alternative, and dietary supplements
- Have memory problems or confusion
- Get prescriptions from more than one doctor and fill them at multiple pharmacies
- Use online and community pharmacies or
- Have difficulty opening and dispensing medication from packaging
Modern medicines have contributed to longer life spans, improved health and better quality of life. They not only treat and cure diseases that were untreatable just a few years ago, they aid in the early diagnosis of disease; prevent life-threatening illnesses; relieve pain and suffering; and allow people with terminal illnesses to live more comfortably during their last days.
However, for seniors and people with disabilities, medications can be a double-edged sword. When not managed appropriately, effectively and safely, medications can have devastating consequences.
Medicines may cause harm if used incorrectly and seniors are more at risk of experiencing side effects. If you (or your loved ones) experiences difficulty with vision, hearing, memory or cognitive functions, it can make managing medicines safely, a lot harder.
It is vital to understand as much as you can about the medicines you (or your loved ones) are taking. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions and tell them about any allergies, other medications (prescription or non-prescription), or past problems you have had.
Another good tip is to ensure that you carry a list of your (or your loved one’s) medications with you. The list should include details such as:
- the name of the medication
- what it is for
- how much you take and when, and
- any special instructions.
There are services that can you can access to help with managing your medicines. These include:
- reviewing all the medicines you take
- a double check to ensure you still require them
- checking storage of your medicines and
- exploring whether you might benefit from a dose administration aid or other system to remind you to take your medicines on the right day and at the right time.
If you or your loved one require assistance to manage medication safely and effectively, give us a call on 9499 1200 and we can explore options together. We also offer a free checklist to help you manage medications safely.