“Managing a senior’s drugs can get complicated, since some must be taken in the morning or at bedtime, on an empty stomach or after eating. Others cannot be taken in combination with other things, like grapefruit juice or other drugs.”
If your older relative lives independently, you might worry about whether she is taking all of her medicine when she should, and not missing doses or accidentally taking too much. This is a valid concern, since about 125,000 older American adults die every year from medication errors. Many people over the age of fifty take three or four prescription drugs, and quite a few over-the-counter preparations.
Managing a senior’s drugs can get complicated, since some must be taken in the morning, at bedtime, on an empty stomach or after eating. Others cannot be taken combined with other things, like grapefruit juice or other medications. Keeping track of this, can make you feel like a choreographer arranging a ballet. Here are a few tips on how to keep your aging loved one’s medication doses on schedule.
Striking a Balance
The assistance your loved one needs, will depend on his current level of cognitive function. His status can change over time, due to progressive cognitive decline from normal aging or things like Alzheimer’s. He might also need more supervision with his medications on a temporary basis during an illness or after an injury or surgery.
You want to ensure that she receives her correct doses, but you do not want to patronize her. This “sweet spot” can be difficult to achieve, and it is a moving target.
Organize and Remind
Do not discard the original pill bottles from the pharmacy. They contain essential information about dosing and warnings about drowsiness and other side effects. Even if you take pills out of the containers to put them into pill organizers, always keep an empty bottle on hand.
Read the packaging inserts. That way you will be alert should your relative exhibit unusual symptoms and will know if he might:
- Have missed a dose,
- Have overdosed, or
- Be having a side effect.
Pill organizers. You can buy plastic pill boxes with multiple compartments to arrange the medications. Get a box with the day or time for the dose printed on each divided area. Popular options include:
- One day boxes with sections for morning, afternoon, and evening
- One-week boxes with one compartment for each day
- Two-week or one-month boxes with a section for each day
Timed reminders. You can set an alarm clock to remind the senior to take her pills, but most older adults take more than one drug. Therefore, an old-school alarm clock might not be adequate. You can, however, set multiple alarms on a cell phone. The only problem is that the alarms will not say which medicine she is supposed to take at which time. For that, you can write the doses with the times on a calendar, so she can check the calendar when her cell phone alarm goes off to see which pill to take. There are also several cell phone apps that can help your loved one keep track of her medications.
We want your loved ones to be safe. Make sure they have the legal documents they must protect them. Talk with an elder law attorney in your area to prepare these papers and to see how your state regulations might differ from the general law covered in this article.
Elder Care. “Senior Safety: Caregiver Sanity.” (accessed August 18, 2018) https://eldercare.com/senior-safety-caregiver-sanity