5 Ways to Make Medication Management Easier
It’s important for anyone taking medications to be careful, knowledgeable, and regular with their doses—and especially important for older adults.
Older adults are more likely to be taking several medications, which means they’re more at risk for medication errors. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association of Internal Medicine, about 87% of older adults regularly take at least one prescription medication, and 36% regularly take at least five prescription drugs (known as polypharmacy).
If not managed well, taking several medications can increase the risk of misses and mix-ups. These can include forgetting doses, taking them too close together, or having food in the stomach when the medication calls for a fast. These mistakes can risk throwing treatment off course and disrupting health stability. The resulting health hazards can be serious. According to the CDC, about 350,000 people each year need hospitalized treatment because of harmful effects from medicine.
The good news is, there are ways that seniors can simplify medication management and avoid those health hazards. Read on to learn more about these helpful methods.
Keep your own patient fact sheet
It’s recommended to have critical medical information ready to share with family, caregivers, and doctors to help with medication management. An easy way to do this is keep an updated chart with your provider, insurance, and medication information. The medication part of the chart should include at least the names of your prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements, as well as the conditions they’re treating. You may also want to include the condition requirements (empty stomach, time of day, conflicting medications); refill frequencies; expirations; and both warned and experienced side effects.
Stay organized with medication doses and reminder systems
The best medication management system is one that fits into your routine and lifestyle. The more it feels like part of your day, the less likely it is to be forgotten.
The ever-present pillbox is still around for good reason. It helps you plan out your week’s medication and see what pills you’ve taken, skipped, or missed. It will likely help to use a pillbox that has divided sections for both morning and night. Clearly separating your medications will help cut down on confusion from wondering what time you took something.
Even the most alert and healthy brains can forget important things. So it’s recommended to have some sort of reminder system that’s visible and a part of your daily routine. You might have a wall calendar hanging in your kitchen or sticky notes in your bathroom. You can also set simple alarms with your watch, phone, or digital calendar.
And if you like new technology, there are new smart pillboxes with mobile apps that send medication updates and alerts. Companies like Memo Box and Tricella use sensors to detect the presence or absence of pills in the box; they also allow you to program in your medication schedule. The smart pillbox then sends updates and alerts to you and loved ones on whether you’ve taken or missed your dosage.
Another option to help with medication management is PillPack. The licensed mail-order prescription service (with a 24-7 pharmacist available by phone) may be especially helpful to older adults physically distancing or in quarantine. It offers scheduled deliveries and clear, easy-to-read labels with medication names, dates, and times. And PillPack accepts most insurance plans, as well as Medicare Part D.
Work with your primary care provider
While most people see more than one doctor, there’s a good reason for designating one doctor to oversee all your care. With all your care information in one place, your doctor will have the best view into any treatment methods or medications that might counteract each other or present a combined risk.
When you’re referred to specialists, make sure to have your primary doctor’s office information so they can receive records of your visit. It will also save time and questions to have your medication fact sheet ready at every visit, especially if you have any new information. Of course, it’s also recommended to keep loved ones and caregivers involved, ensuring that everyone has updated information in case of an emergency.
In the same lane, it may also help to keep your prescription orders to one pharmacy. With all your prescription history in one place, your information will be easy to refer to when you have questions or concerns.
Ask about safely discontinuing unnecessary medications
Talk with your doctor about what medications are either outdated for your health needs or seem to be ineffective. Reducing medications can reduce the risk of negative reactions or interactions. It will also help to protect against the “prescription cascade” of side effects.
The “prescription cascade” can happen when side effects are mistaken for unique and new symptoms, which are then given new additional medications. This can lead to unnecessary treatments that may add more potential complications.
Be careful to avoid self-prescribing
Last but not least, always check with your doctor before starting or discontinuing medications. And let them know if you’ve missed a critical dosage. Your doctor can look at the ‘big picture’ of your treatment and advise you on any health risks that may occur from medication changes.
Managing your medication helps you stay aware and in charge of your best health, but it can also be overwhelming. Work with your primary doctor and loved ones to create a system that works for you, and ask for help when you need it.
At Era Living communities, UW Pharmacists are available to help review your prescriptions and make recommendations. If you have questions about your prescriptions, schedule an appointment at your Wellness Center today.