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Elderly adults take more prescription medication than any other demographic. Remembering to take medication can be a challenge, especially in situations where the aging adult is struggling with their memory. The pressure to manage medication may also have been triggered (or escalated) by a recent hospital visit. The hospital has systems in place to ensure they disburse medication on time, but no such system exists at home. It can be hard to keep them all straight. In this article, we are going to discuss five tips for safe senior medication management at home.

Use an Old-Fashioned Pillbox

This tip may seem obvious, but a structured pillbox is incredibly useful for a few reasons.

  • It helps you plan out the medication in advance. By looking at least a week or two ahead of your schedule, you’ll remember to re-order before you run out.
  • It’s a visual reminder. By setting a brightly colored box somewhere you will be sure to look, it will be harder to forget about the medication.
  • You can buy pillboxes that fit the prescription schedule. A pillbox comes in many colors, sizes, and shapes. You can organize medication by having a pink pillbox for morning medication and a blue pillbox for evening medication, for example.
  • It’s a clear indicator of whether or not the medication has been taken. Once taking prescription medication becomes a habit, it can be easy to do mindlessly. This means that, from time to time, you may not remember whether or not you took your prescribed medication. In some cases, this leads to over- or under-dosing on medication.

Set Alarms/Reminders

While the pillbox can be a form of physical reminder, it may not be enough. If your loved one has a smartphone, you can set an alarm on your phone. If your left one does not have a smartphone, as many don’t, you can purchase an elder reminder device.

  • Reminder Rosie offers a senior-friendly alarm clock that can be set to remind your loved one to take medications.
  • MedMinder is an automated smart pill dispenser that will notify the caregiver if someone is not taking their medication.
  • TabSafe is an automated smart pill dispenser that can notify the caregiver of missed doses as well. Its unique value is that it locks away remaining medications for safety (great for seniors that have struggled with addiction or substance abuse in the past).
  • Others: there are many other devices marketed to seniors for this purpose, so if these do not fit the bill, keep searching. There probably is one that will.

Make Note of Side Effects & Interaction

Especially if your loved one sees multiple doctors or specialists, it’s important to have an understanding of the medications that they’re taking and how they interact with one another. To manage this:

  • Use one pharmacy. Pharmacists make catch medication as prescribed together that do not mesh. But that’s only possible if you use one pharmacy for all medications.
  • Bring prescription information to all doctor’s appointments. Even if you don’t think you will leave a doctor’s appointment with a new prescription, it’s better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it.
  • Go over your prescription list with doctors regularly. Your doctor will be able to help you answer questions about side effects, interaction effects, or whether or not they still need a certain medication.

Take Medications as Prescribed

It’s important to take proper care of your prescribed medication. 

  • Keep original packaging so that you have a description of the pill’s physical properties alongside proper administration and storage instructions.
  • Follow storage instructions. Some medications need to be refrigerated, others need a cool and dry place to live. Medications in either of these categories should not be left in the bathroom where it gets hot and humid, for example.
  • Don’t skip or double doses. Adjusting the frequency with which they take medication or deciding to let them quit taking it all together can put your loved one’s health at risk.

Have your Pharmacist’s and Doctor’s Information Nearby

It’s important to be vigilant if your loved one is experiencing uncomfortable side effects or changes in mood or behavior. Have the pharmacist’s and doctor’s information nearby so that you can call and ask questions or get help when needed.

Taking good notes about side effects, timing (for example, noticing that within one hour of taking a medication something repeatedly happens), which medications they are taking, and when will help doctors decipher whether what your loved one is experiencing is a side effect or a new symptom of their ailment (or a new ailment altogether).

Recommended Reading: Can You Get Paid to Care for Your Loved One?

If you are a caregiver, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a caregiver in California next. Becoming a caregiver is difficult and expensive. The state of California offers several paths for least partial compensation or subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.

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