Medications are a widespread treatment for many conditions and diseases in elderly people and people with disabilities. However, the aging population often faces challenges in managing their medications. If you don’t use them appropriately and safely, taking multiple medications can have serious consequences. Therefore, having knowledge and understanding of indications for your medications and the importance of taking them every day is an essential part of medication management.
You may feel overwhelmed by managing your medications. If you are disabled and have no access to transportation or you lack social support (such as a family member or friend to pick up your medications), you may struggle with the ability to adhere to your medication regiments.
Medication management is not limited only to prescribed medication but also involves the over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies/alternative medicines you are taking. You should inform your health care provider about over-the-counter medications that are not on your medication list.
Collaboration between health care providers involved (including your caregiver) is essential to providing good medication management. Many experts outline that open communication between health care providers, pharmacists, patients, and their caregivers is important in addressing concerns and barriers, and other causes for medication nonadherence.
One of the most common problems linked to medication use among the elderly and disabled persons is the use of multiple medications simultaneously, which is known as polypharmacy. Studies show that the more medications you use, you are more likely to experience medication-related problems.
Prescription medication use among the elderly has more than doubled over the last two decades. One study found that elderly patients on average take two to four medications daily. But for many people with chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or heart disease, multiple medication use is the norm.
The Role of a Caregiver
If you care for an aging or disabled person, there is a great chance that they suffer medication-related problems. However, many of these conditions are preventable. An important part of medication management is to recognize them and help the person use their medications correctly, effectively, and safely.
Caregivers to people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia commonly report problems with getting their family members to take their medications as directed, in the right amount, and on time.
Before a medical appointment, you should prepare a list of important questions related to medications for your loved one’s health care provider such as:
- Why is this medication prescribed?
- How long will my loved one have to take the medicine?
- Will they need a refill when they finish this prescription?
- Is there a typical time period after which the person’s symptoms should improve?
- Will this medicine interact with other medications the person is already taking?
- Should this medicine be taken with food? Are there any types of food the person should avoid while they are taking this medicine?
- What happens if the person misses a dose of the medicine or takes too much?
- What possible side effects might the person experience with the medicine?
Make sure to ask the elderly person’s pharmacist to provide special pillboxes, devices, or other aids that remind you and senior to take medications. For persons with vision impairments, ask the pharmacist for prescription labels in large print. Also, if the senior experiences difficulties opening bottles or break tablets (this problem is common for people with arthritis), inquire about large, easy-open bottles or ask the pharmacist to split the tablets is a prescription dose is a one-half tablet.