As we age, it seems we see more physicians, specialists and get more tests done, which often lead to an increase and frequent changes in prescribed medications. Adults 65 and older use more medicine daily than any other age group in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all prescription medication, according to the National Council on Patient Information and Education. In addition, the council reports that between 40 and 75 percent of older adults do not take their medications correctly.
What can seniors do to help manage their own medications and ensure that they are taking them as prescribed and safely? Often, our medications are ordered by multiple physicians for a variety of different reasons, which can lead to confusion and raise concerns for contraindications and possible cross reactions between medications.
Questions and requests to ask your prescribing physician(s):
- Do not be afraid to share what medications you are currently taking. Ask your physician if there are any complications or possible adverse reactions for all your medications.
- Ask your physician if they considered your age and weight when ordering your medication. Seniors often metabolize medications differently and side effects may vary based on age, weight, and chronic conditions.
- Ask that your medication clearly labels the reason for the prescription and make sure your pharmacy puts that reason on your prescription bottle. This will help you remember why you are taking it.
- If possible, try to use the same pharmacy and get to know your pharmacist. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacy about possible interactions with your other medications. Ask to schedule a one-on-one discussion with your pharmacist.
- Inquire about the availability and cost of your prescription. Often, there can be multiple manufacturers that make similar medications. If your pills look different than what you are used to, they may have been ordered from a different manufacturer. Double check all pill changes with your pharmacist to be sure.
- Check that all medication changes are sent to your primary care physician. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician to see if they had a chance to review the new medications ordered by your specialist. Primary care physicians are excellent providers to help manage all your medication needs.
Organizing Your Medications
Make sure to find an organization that works best for keeping your medications straight. You may want to consider using a special pillbox, lining up your medication by purpose or time, or putting the medication next to an object to help remind you, like your toothbrush or coffee maker.
Prepare for Hospital, Physician Visits
Most importantly, prepare for those times you have to go to the hospital or meet a new physician. Bring your original bottles along with a list. Health care providers appreciate well-kept lists, as they help them track and update your medication list. I would recommend bringing your original bottles so the health care provider can compare them against the list. This will help avoid transcribing errors.
Know Your Resources
There are caregiving agencies that can help you with medication management. Ask your physician for a home health referral to evaluate your current process and learn about new ways to improve your current medication management. If you live in an assisted living community and still manage your medications, but find that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do so, talk to the director of nursing about possible options. Your safety is a number one priority! FBN
By Leah Veschio, RN, MSN
More information at thepeaks.org