Seniors living today have multiple advantages over aging adults from just a few decades ago; however, those benefits sometimes come with added considerations. For example, thanks to increased support and available resources, seniors can live at home independently for far longer than in decades past. However, living at home while managing chronic pain and complex medical conditions can also be trickier than in years past.
Polypharmacy, or taking more than one type of medication at the same time, has given seniors the ability to remain healthy despite multiple medical complications. However, polypharmacy also means that some seniors’ medication lists are long and sometimes downright complicated. Unfortunately, polypharmacy can lead to negative consequences, including potentially dangerous ones.
According to the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, medication mismanagement, including skipped or missed doses of medication, can lead to costly and dangerous repercussions. For example, drug-related morbidity and mortality account for $200 billion annually in the United States alone, which is more than people spend on the drugs themselves. Additionally, a study released by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics states that paying closer attention to the adherence to prescription medications could eliminate 10 million hospital admissions, 78 million outpatient procedures, 246 million prescriptions, and 4 million emergency room visits each year.
Although there are various reasons why medication mismanagement happens daily, there are just as many potential solutions to prevent unexpected hospital visits or increased costs.
Medication Challenges and Solutions
The first line of defense against medical non-adherence is open communication with your pharmacist and primary physician. For many older adults who see specialists for different conditions, physicians are not always on the same page in regards to prescriptions. To avoid any undesired side effects or complications, individuals should use a central pharmacy and keep their updated medication record on file with their primary physician. These two steps cost nearly nothing and can help you avoid unintended polypharmacy complications.
Memory or Organizational Challenges
Medication non-adherence can happen because of memory challenges or a decreased capacity for keeping a long list of medications straight. After all, each medication has a different dose and typically needs to be taken at a certain time. A solution to the memory and organization challenge that keeps costs low is a simple pillbox. You can pick up a pillbox at your local pharmacy, and you can choose between boxes that range from simple to complex.
One major benefit of a pillbox is the ability to plan out medications for the week, eliminating the need to open individual pill bottles multiple times per day and decreasing the chance for mistakes. Drawbacks to a pillbox can include difficulty opening it up, especially for those living with fine motor challenges or pain caused by arthritis. Further, pillboxes still require regular management because individual containers must be filled at least weekly.
Skipping or Doubling Doses
Medication non-adherence can also occur when a dose is inadvertently skipped or doubled. A pillbox may organize medications by time of day, but it still requires the individual to recognize the time of day and take the appropriate pills. Individuals living at home alone may need some additional visual or audio cueing to remind them to take their medications. Specially designed medication management systems offer audio cues, such as a gentle alarm, to remind the individual that it is time to take the dispensed medication.
Drawbacks to medication management systems that offer alarms or cues can include cost, though the safety considerations certainly outweigh the expense. Further, most medication management systems do not follow up or offer any consequence if a medication is missed.
Livi, a medication management system, has harnessed technology to give individuals the best chance at correctly taking their medications as well as appropriate follow-up for any complications. Livi is able to store up to 90 days of medications and can send pre-approved contacts a message in real time if a dose is missed.
Next Steps for Safety
Polypharmacy is part of life for older adults. Though a list of prescription and over-the-counter medications can increase quality of life and general wellness, it can also lead to serious safety concerns due to medication non-adherence. You can purchase solutions to help you and your aging loved one stay in compliance and stay out of the emergency room.
To get started on your road to polypharmacy safety, explore your options, ranging from simple pillboxes to more comprehensive medication management systems. The expense now can decrease major medical costs due to medication mismanagement down the road.