Seniors living at home independently or with a partner are fortunate to have resources and specially tailored supports readily available to keep them at home for as long as possible. Thanks to friendly neighbors and nearby family members, seniors living at home can benefit from phone call check-ins and drop-by visits. However, what happens when you begin to notice medication concerns during your time in your loved one’s apartment? It can be difficult to begin the conversation about your worries surrounding medication management, but bringing the subject up could potentially save a life.
Medication mismanagement is a serious concern for seniors, who are often tasked with managing multiple medications each day. The National Institute on Aging reports that seniors take more medications than any other age group because of chronic medical conditions that require multiple prescriptions. Although it is great that physicians can treat conditions with more than one medication, polypharmacy can also lead to dangerous medication mistakes.
If you have noticed your loved one skipping or doubling doses of medications, or if your loved one has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia, it is wise to bring up your concerns. Talking through your worries, along with offering solutions, can relieve your stress and empower your loved one as a part of the process.
Here are just a few talking points and considerations that can get you and your loved one on the track to medication safety.
I Worry about You Missing (Or Doubling) a Dose of Your Medication.
More often than not, an honest statement about your worries can get the conversation going. When possible, give examples of what you have noticed or observed during your visits. For example, “Last Tuesday when I dropped off your mail, I noticed your pillbox was empty for Wednesday and Thursday. That made me think you had mixed up the days, and it made me feel worried.” Or, “I saw you skipped your dinner medicines the past few times I’ve been here to eat. It makes me feel worried.”
Avoid placing the blame on them with statements such as “you never take your medications on time,” or “you are forgetting to take your heart medications.” Instead, share your observations and feelings to get the conversation started.
Your Medication Can Make You Feel Sick If You Don’t Take It at the Right Time.
Taking medication incorrectly can have side effects your loved one is sure to feel. Whether it is an upset stomach or feeling dizzy, pointing out these undesirable effects can demonstrate the importance of taking medications on time and in the right dose.
It Must Feel Frustrating to Not Be Able to Open All Those Bottles (Or Keep Track of Your Schedule).
Managing all their medications is likely not the best part of your loved one’s day. They are probably feeling just as overwhelmed or frustrated with the situation as you are, if not more so. Empathize with them and see if that helps open more honest communication about what they specifically are struggling with daily.
I Think I Have a Solution That Will Take Away Your Stress and Will Keep You Living at Home Independently.
Coming into the conversation with a potential solution is crucial because it gives your loved one the chance to be involved with solving their own medication management issues. Consider looking at a pill dispensing system, such as Livi, that offers storage for 90 days’ worth of medications and real-time updates to caregivers if doses are missed. Your loved one may be just as relieved as you to have Livi as a part of the daily routine.
It is also wise to consider bringing your loved one’s primary care physician into the conversation. Not only can a doctor talk about potential dangers with medication mismanagement, but the doctor can also offer an objective point of view that both of you will appreciate. Integrate the conversation into your next appointment, or if you think things are serious, you can call your loved one’s doctor’s office to set up an appointment with the doctor or nurse to talk more about it.
Additionally, if your loved one has a trusted relationship with their pharmacy, pharmacists are clinically trained to counsel patients about medication use issues and may be a resource to help your loved one understand the risks of under- or over-medicating.
Do you know what to look for to determine if your loved one is struggling with medication management? Learn all about polypharmacy, potential challenges, and real solutions by downloading The Ultimate Guide to Medication Management.