Many older adults want to live at home for as long as possible, and for good reason—a comforting place full of memories can be difficult to leave. However, aging adults have to be aware of a few specific challenges that can arise when living at home independently, including managing medications. Seniors living at home, alone or with a partner, can be especially vulnerable to dangers associated with medication mismanagement.According to an article published in Annals of Long-Term Care: The Official Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, over a two-year period, adults over the age of 65 accounted for 17 percent of emergency room visits caused by an adverse drug event (ADE). Overdose, or taking too much of a medication, is the most common ADE for older adults, but any type of medication mismanagement can have serious implications.
With older adults using a large number of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins or supplements to combat chronic and acute medical conditions, it is no wonder so many older adults find themselves in the emergency room with side effects. It can be confusing and dangerous to attempt to manage medications alone at home. Here are a few tips family caregivers can follow to keep their senior loved one safe and healthy while at home.
Visit the Pharmacy
One of the easiest ways to prevent medication issues is to use a single pharmacy for all prescription medications. When you utilize a single pharmacy, it is easier to ask for a complete and thorough list of current medications, and the pharmacist can easily determine if medications will cause poor side effects.
Be Honest with Your Doctor
While at an annual check-up, be sure to update your doctor on your current prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as any supplements or vitamins you are taking. Don’t leave anything out, and keep the list at your primary physician’s office current. As seniors begin visiting specialists to assist with managing conditions or diagnoses, more medications may be recommended. Keep your primary care physician updated on all new medications so your chart is accurate.
Before you begin a new medication regimen, ask questions about it. Inquire about any side effects and whether the new medicine will negatively interact with your current medications. You can also ask your pharmacist or physician for a full medication review to determine if any of your medications can be discontinued or decreased. Many medication mismanagement incidents happen because the list of medications is simply too long to realistically manage. If it is possible to cut out any medications that are no longer needed or are duplicating another, it can make management much easier.
Medication side effects can range from fatigue to upset stomach, heart palpitations to confusion. If you begin a new medication, be on the lookout for any strange sensations, rashes, fevers, or feelings. Report these to your doctor, and follow up to see if there is another medication choice that could alleviate the side effects. Further, recognize that not all side effects will begin immediately; it can take up to a month for a medication to cause unpleasant side effects. When in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Thanks to technology, medication management is much safer for older adults living at home alone or with a partner. Traditional pillboxes, for example, still require the senior to know the time and day, open the box without incident, and take the pills at the prescribed time. Family caregivers are on the hook to replace medications weekly, which can be difficult to do with work, travel, and other obligations. Even more worrisome, family caregivers may not know that medications are being skipped until they visit at the end of the week to refill.
Seniors living with fine motor skill challenges, memory deficits, or decreased motivation are at a real risk for an adverse drug event. Technology is now able to fill in some of those gaps, thanks to automated medication dispensers designed to keep seniors safe and independent at home.
Automatic medication dispensers offer solutions to potentially dangerous medication management problems. For example, an alarm can cue a senior with memory issues to take a pill. Additionally, the risk of overdosing is lowered because only the medication required at the moment is dispensed.
Livi, an automated medication dispensing system, offers additional safeguards to protect seniors and offer family caregivers peace of mind. First, to eliminate the stress on family caregivers to fill medications, Livi can store a 90-day supply of up to 15 oral medications. Next, Livi uses built-in 3G cellular communication abilities to notify caregivers in real time of any late or missed doses. Using cellular connectivity eliminates the need for a home-based WiFi, and is more dependable. The device is safe, easy-to-use, and allows seniors to thrive independently at home without the added stress of medication management.
Medication management doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. By keeping up with current medication lists, being honest with doctors and pharmacists, and using technology appropriately, your senior loved one can stay healthy at home.