Senior Medication Problems: Home Care Can Help
Most seniors value their independence, and wish to stay in their own homes. But did you know that a senior's inability to manage medications is often an important deciding factor for moving to a nursing home or other care facility?
Medicines play an important part in senior health. They are beneficial in controlling many of the diseases and conditions that older adults experience, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Medications help seniors manage many common medical conditions. But managing the medications, themselves, and complying with how they should be taken can be a challenge.
But medications, whether prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter, have potentially toxic side effects that can cause significant problems. For example, it is not at all uncommon for families to suspect dementia or depression in an older adult, when the symptoms are actually caused by undesirable effects from prescription drugs. Medication problems can lead to hospitalization and even death.
Undesirable effects of medications may be caused by:
- Negative side effects of a drug;
- Interaction between one or more drugs;
- Overdose from taking too much of a single medication;
- Overmedication when two drugs work in a similar way; or
- Changes in the way an older person’s body reacts to and processes certain drugs that allows a toxic level to build up.
Overmedication isn't the only problem: if a senior misses doses, the drug may not be as effective.
Often, medication management problems result from the complexity of juggling a variety of drugs for various conditions. Compound the issue with multiple prescriptions, different times to take them, different ways they should be taken, and it's easy to see why medication compliance is so complicated. To make matters worse, memory loss can exacerbate the situation, making it more likely that the person will take an extra dose or skip a dose.
Families worry about their older loved one's ability to take prescriptions correctly. There are some relatively simple safeguards to take. Family can:
- Help their loved one make a list of all medications and bring the list (or the medication containers) to their loved one’s doctor for a periodic review of all prescriptions;
- Check their loved one’s medicine chest for old prescriptions that are no longer needed or have expired;
- Have their loved one contact the healthcare provider if there are signs of bad side effects, such as a rash, headaches, drowsiness, dizziness or nausea;
- Encourage their loved one to use a single pharmacy for all prescriptions so the pharmacist can help avoid drug interactions.
But when it comes to the daily monitoring of a medication regime, families may feel helpless, wondering whether their parent is following the doctor's recommendations. They worry when they aren't around, and wonder if the senior is safe taking the medications properly.
This is where home care can fill in the gap, providing an extra measure of safety and peace of mind. Home care workers can:
- Remind the senior to take medications on time and in the way they are supposed to be taken;
- Take the senior to the pharmacy, or pick up prescriptions;
- Observe and report problems that might suggest side effects; and,
- Help the senior learn to use pill organizers, dispensers, automatic reminders or other devices.
Medication management is just one of the many ways that home care workers can help seniors maintain their independence, and help family caregivers go about their daily tasks with confidence, knowing their loved one is safe.
To learn more about the safe use of medicines, see "Medication Safety for Seniors and Caregivers" in the March 2008 online edition of Caring Right at Home.
| ||See the August 2007 issue of Caring Right at Home to learn how AccuPax, a leading medication packaging delivery and monitoring service, provides seniors with a simple system to accurately track their daily medication doses directly in their homes. |
Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance services.