Safe Medication Management for Seniors: Strategies to Avoid Common Issues

Senior man sitting and looking at his medication despondantly

With a majority of older adults taking at least one prescription daily, safe medication management for seniors is a top priority.

A study of over 2,000 older adults revealed that a remarkable 87% take a minimum of one prescription drug, and a staggering 36% are taking 5 or more – as well as 38% using over-the-counter meds on a routine basis. Safe medication management for seniors is essential, as there are a number of risks and dangers that can occur in the process.

As specialists in aging care, Harmony Home Health & Hospice’s caregiving team helps older adults to ensure meds are taken when and how they are prescribed. It’s also extremely important to understand common problems older adults experience with using their prescriptions, and how to conquer them. As an example:

Sometimes, signs or symptoms continue in spite of taking medications properly. Busy medical practitioners may prescribe what is known as a “starter dose” of a medication, which calls for follow-up to figure out if modification is necessary; but in many cases, that follow-up never occurs. Make sure to schedule a subsequent visit with the doctor when a new medication is prescribed, and make certain the older adult keeps that appointment.

Side effects could very well be worse than the condition being treated. Of particular issue are medications that impact a senior’s balance and thinking – escalating the chance of a fall or other hazardous consequences. Drugs to be particularly cautious about include anticholinergics, sedatives/tranquilizers, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and opiates. Consult with the physician if any of these medications are prescribed for an older relative and carefully weigh the possible risks against benefits.

Staying compliant with medication adherence may be a challenge. Remembering that one particular med needs to be taken with food, while another on an empty stomach, another with a full glass of water, one before breakfast and two at bedtime, can make it tremendously challenging to take prescriptions precisely when and how they are prescribed. Engage the services of a home health care agency, such as Harmony Home Health & Hospice, for medication reminders and management.

Cost may be prohibitive. When cost for a specific prescription is high, older adults could very well be tempted to reduce their dosage amounts to reduce cost – a very risky behavior. Older adults should instead talk with their doctors about generic versions of medications, or any other methods to keep cost at a minimum.

Be informed on likely interactions with other meds. Bring a full listing of all the medications a loved one is taking to a physician or pharmacist with knowledge in polypharmacy, who is able to confirm that the drugs can safely be taken in conjunction with one another. Be sure to include any over-the-counter medications taken regularly as well. For a fast online evaluation, this drug interaction checker lets you enter each of a senior’s medications and view any concerns, which can then be discussed with his or her doctor.

Contact Harmony Home Health & Hospice online or at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE for more medication management tips, as well as for professional hands-on assistance with a full range of home health care services. For a full list of all the communities in New Mexico and Utah where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.