What Is Elderly Medication Management? | TorHoerman Law

News » What Is Elderly Medication Management? | TorHoerman Law

A Guide to Helping Older Adults with Managing Medications

For older adults who take prescription drugs, medication management is a crucial component of maintaining good health. Medical providers may prescribe medications to improve and maintain patient health, but it is often up to patients to follow through with the prescription regimen, which may involve human error.

What is Medication Management?

A study about medication nonadherence suggests several reasons elderly people may not take medication as needed. Medication management is the oversight and monitoring of prescriptions, providing extra support to patients who may help in regard to their medication consumption or application. People who suffer from impaired cognitive function may not remember to take medications at the right times. Some people may also choose not to take certain medications to avoid unpleasant feelings caused by negative side effects. This can result in declining health and other potentially harmful effects. Medication management is intended to help address or avoid these situations.

The Importance of Good Medication Management

When an older adult follows a medication schedule, they usually experience a better quality of life. Medications are meant to be taken in specific doses at regular intervals to properly manage pain and illness. Good medication management also makes it easier for medical providers to regulate an elderly person’s health.

On the other hand, stopping some medications suddenly can result in withdrawal symptoms. Even mismanaging medication can result in similar withdrawal symptoms. When medication isn’t managed properly, a patient’s health is put at risk, which could lead to the exacerbation of chronic medical conditions.

How To Organize Medication

To manage medication properly, you should take the correct medicines at the right times. Keeping medications organized helps prevent older adults from accidentally skipping their medications or overdosing on prescriptions.

You can implement several strategies to ensure medication stays organized.

  • Use a pill organizer: A pill organizer allows you to assemble pills by day. You can buy a pill organizer or make it a fun and healthy family DIY project to create a customized pill organizer for your loved one.
  • Create a medication chart or calendar: It may be easier to organize medication by writing out a schedule. Use a calendar, day planner, or medication chart so the older adult can follow along and know when it’s time to take certain drugs and the proper dosages to take.
  • Set alarms or use a smartphone app: If the older adult is comfortable with technology, consider using a smartphone app that alerts the user to take medication at certain times. When you save an alarm, label it as the name of the drug and the dosage so there’s no confusion.
  • Place prescription bottles in order: Physically place prescription bottles in the order they’re supposed to be taken throughout the day or week. This helps to visualize when to take certain medications.

Keeping medicine organized and putting reminders in place ensures medicine and overall treatment are as effective as possible.

Understanding the Effects of Medications

As a caring family member, it’s important to speak with an older adult’s primary care provider. Review medication labels so you can learn about side effects the older adult may experience. You should feel confident in identifying which side effects are normal and which ones may need to be investigated.

It’s also important to discuss potential drug interactions with the older adult’s medical provider. Offer the doctor a list of other medications and vitamins currently taken to ensure there aren’t any undesired reactions between the chemicals in these medications and supplements. If a doctor knows about current treatments, it can also help to avoid a misdiagnosis.

It’s also important to discuss the dangers of mixing medications. If the doctor warned you about any medications that don’t interact well, write them down so the older adult doesn’t accidentally mix them together. You should also remove any drugs from your household that could negatively interact with any medications your loved one is currently taking.

Common Side Effects of Medications

In an ideal world, all the medications we take would work seamlessly, but unfortunately, there are typically side effects to be aware of. If an older adult in your life is taking the medication regularly, it’s important to educate yourself on the respective side effects and prepare. Here is a list of the most common medications and their side effects:

  • Anticholinergics: Commonly used to treat an overactive bladder, these drugs can also cause anxiety and cognitive impairment, as well as seizures at high dosages.
  • Benzodiazepines: These drugs are given to those with anxiety or trouble sleeping, and can be habit-forming and slow down reflexes.
  • Antihypertensives: Prescriptions in this category are given to treat high blood pressure. When blood pressure lowers, it can cause dizziness upon standing, which also increases the risk of a fall.
  • Diabetes medication: If an older adult is taking diabetes medication, it’s important to monitor their blood sugar levels as it can dramatically decrease blood sugar levels, which can cause hypoglycemia.
  • Anticonvulsants: Older adults who are prone to seizures may take these prescriptions to avoid an episode. However, these drugs are known to affect brain function so an older adult may not think clearly or may feel “foggy” while taking these medications.

Learning to recognize these side effects can be key to receiving prompt treatment or trying alternative medications.

Dangerous Drug Interactions

If your loved one does accidentally take another medication that doesn’t mix well with their regular medication, you must take immediate action. To prevent this situation in the first place, familiarize yourself with the most common unhealthy drug interactions:

  • Acid reducer and blood thinner: When an older adult mixes these two drugs, the effectiveness of the blood thinner is reduced, which could result in heart attacks or strokes.
  • Antihistamine and blood pressure medication: An older adult may use an antihistamine to clear up their sinuses, but this may cause an elevated heart rate and their blood pressure to rise.
  • Warfarin and antibiotics: When these two drugs are combined, the blood may be thinned excessively, which can lead to internal bleeding.
  • Statin drugs and St. John’s Wort: People who take statins to lower their cholesterol should stay away from St. John’s Wort, the daily supplement, as the latter can block the effects of cholesterol-lowering medication.

Beyond these common interactions, you should also consult a health professional to learn more about any specific medications that may not be listed here. If an older adult is under the care of a nursing home and medication isn’t managed properly, leading to dangerous drug interactions, it may be grounds for legal action against the nursing home for abuse or even medical malpractice depending on the circumstances.

Medication Management Tips for Older Adults and Caregivers

Managing medication properly is essential for avoiding complications and ensuring that medicine is working to its full potential. Keeping medication managed properly involves some considerations that may not be immediately apparent or obvious.

  • Understand how to take drugs properly: Some drugs are meant to address symptoms when they occur. Others must be taken regularly regardless of symptoms.
  • Ask doctors about over-the-counter medication: Medication not prescribed by a doctor can still have negative effects when paired with prescription drugs. It’s important to clear these drugs with a doctor before
  • Watch out for side effects: Ask doctors about potential side effects of the medications they prescribe. If you notice any of these symptoms, notify a healthcare professional immediately.
  • Keep an updated list of medications: Make a list of all prescribed or over-the-counter medications taken. This can serve as a useful reference when visiting doctors. It can also help to keep track of when prescriptions need refilled.
  • Discuss drugs taken during hospital visits: When under hospital care, the staff will handle all of a patient’s medication needs. It’s important to be able to provide them with a list of important drugs taken. However, in order to prevent complications, it is also just as important that a patient doesn’t take any medications on their own without hospital care staff’s knowledge.

Keeping these guidelines in mind can help to stay proactive, preventing some potential issues and quickly responding to others as they occur. While it is important for older adults to understand these guidelines, it is just as important for caregivers to be able to offer support in following them.

Communicating With Your Loved One

Communicating with an older adult about the importance of medication management will help them to navigate this issue in a serious manner. Discuss the dangers of self-prescribing and emphasize the importance of consulting with a medical provider before taking any medication or vitamin supplements. Older adults with cognitive impairments may need a little more help and support sticking to treatment regimens as well.

  • Keep track of doctor visits: Be sure older adults are visiting medical professionals when necessary. If possible, it could also be a good idea to limit visits to different doctors. This can help avoid miscommunications that could lead to redundant and potentially dangerous procedures.
  • Monitor prescriptions: Keep a record of ongoing prescriptions. This can help to ensure older adults are taking medication, as well as updating and refilling prescriptions when needed. It can also help to identify overprescription or drug interactions.
  • Seek outside assistance: For older adults with cognitive impairments, it may be difficult for them to manage medication on their own. Hiring an at-home nurse can be helpful if you can’t be with the person around the clock.

If any of these efforts cause you to suspect malpractice from a doctor or neglect from a nursing home, it may be a good idea to consult with an injury lawyer to see if legal action is an option. To keep your loved one healthy and thriving, follow medication management protocol and ensure they’re taking care of themselves daily.


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