Managing Medications for Seniors: A Guide to Preventing Overmedication

A senior woman reads a prescription medication bottle as she learns about managing medications for seniors.

Overmedication can have serious consequences for older adults’ health, which is why managing medications for seniors is so important.

The days of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” have morphed into “take two of these…and two of these…and maybe one of those, too!” Nearly forty percent of older adults are taking at least five different prescription medications each day—not to mention vitamins, supplements, and OTC meds. It is easy to understand why overmedication and adverse medication reactions are incredibly common in older adults. Managing medications for seniors is vital to help prevent these issues.

Take these measures to prevent medication complications for an older adult you love:

  • Make a list, and check it twice. Create a list of every one of the medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – that a senior loved one is currently taking. Share the list with all of the older adult’s healthcare providers, and present updated lists whenever there’s a change in medications. Then at a minimum of every six months, review the list along with their primary care physician to confirm that all of the medications are necessary and that current doses are optimal.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Ensure you completely understand what each medication is for, and make sure there are no contraindications with other medications the individual is taking. The doctor or pharmacist can run the older adult’s meds through a drug interaction database to confirm. If you’re unsure about anything else associated with the medications prescribed, speak up. You will want to make certain you understand:
    • Whether a generic version is available
    • What the potential side effects might be
    • How to handle if a dose is missed
    • Exactly when as well as how the meds must be taken (in other words, with a full glass of water, on a full stomach, if they can be crushed or broken in half, etc.)
    • And any other questions you might have
  • Set up a system. As soon as you’ve confirmed that all the older adult’s medications are necessary and you have the details you need to ensure they are taken correctly, create a system for following physicians’ orders. Depending on the senior’s cognitive functioning, this may be as simple as a pill box that is filled weekly. Or you may want to rely on the services of a home health care provider, like Harmony Home Health and Hospice, for medication management and administration.

It is additionally vital to be aware that a doctor should always be consulted before starting or changing any medications, including vitamins or over-the-counter meds. Some prescription medications belong to the same drug category as OTC meds, which could lead to too much of a medication being administered. In other cases, OTC medications or vitamins interact negatively with prescriptions.

We are always here to help seniors stay healthy and safe. Contact us online or call us at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE (1-877-463-3322) to learn more about our in-home health care services and how they could benefit a loved one in your life. Harmony Home Health and Hospice provides home health care in Salt Lake City, Tooele, Ogden, and throughout Central New Mexico and Northern Utah.