A Dose of Good Advice
Eight Tips for Medication Management for Seniors
By Kara James
In general, as we age, our need for a variety of medications increases. This includes everything from prescriptions to over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins and supplements.
Unfortunately, as the number of remedies we take increases, so too does the difficulty in managing them, which can lead to problems such as potential interactions and missed doses. Here are eight tips to help properly manage medications.
1. Check for interactions. Talk to your pharmacist and let them know about all the medications you are taking, including natural remedies and over-the-counter products. Your pharmacist can let you know in advance about any potential for interactions that could have serious health consequences.
“As the number of remedies we take increases, so too does the difficulty in managing them, which can lead to problems such as potential interactions and missed doses.”
2. Make a written schedule. It’s important to take medications as prescribed so they work effectively. Write down which medications you need to take, and at what time of day (morning, noon, evening, or bedtime). Be sure to include any important reminders, such as if you are supposed to take a medication with food or on an empty stomach. Keep this schedule in a visible place. Use an alarm to set reminders, if necessary, to stay on schedule.
3. Pre-sort medications weekly. A pill organizer makes it easy for you to see what medications you need to take and when, and also lets you easily see if you already took a dose so you don’t accidentally take it twice. Our MediBubble medication-management system does this for you with monthly pill-pack organizers.
4. Create a comprehensive list. Make a list of all your medications and supplements and keep it on your phone or in your wallet for easy reference. Include the medication name, dosage, frequency, and purpose.
5. Store medications appropriately. Many people store their medications in the bathroom; heat and humidity can cause medications to degrade. They should be kept in a cool, dark place, out of the reach of children.
6. Ensure accessibility. Some seniors struggle with opening child-proof bottles, so make sure you can actually access the medications you need to take. If you must put them in another container, make sure the container is labeled with the medication name, dosage, and other instructions.
7. Understand side effects. Make sure you understand the potential side effects of medications you take, and be sure to let your provider know if you experience any that are serious. They can often provide advice or change the medication or dosage to minimize issues. You can also talk to your pharmacist with questions and concerns about side effects.
8. Plan ahead for refills. Make sure you order refills well in advance to avoid missed doses. Some pharmacies now offer medication-management programs allowing for routine refilling of your prescriptions, and will notify you when your refill is ready. n
Kara James, Ph.D. is pharmacy manager and co-owner of Louis & Clark Pharmacy in Springfield.