As people age, it’s not uncommon for doctors to prescribe a complex series of medications to manage existing health conditions and prevent new ones from arising. While these medications may be helpful, the task of remembering which medications to take every day can be overwhelming for seniors.
In addition to making medication schedules difficult to remember, polypharmacy (taking multiple medications to manage various health conditions) presents a unique set of drug interaction dangers that can pose health threats to seniors and aging adults. When multiple medications are prescribed at separate times and for separate conditions, the risk of adverse drug interactions increases.
According to the American Geriatrics Society, each year more than 30% of seniors in the United States have an negative reaction to their prescription medication. Most commonly, these reactions are caused by missing doses of medication or accidentally doubling up on doses of medication. In order to prevent these problems from occurring and to limit the chance of adverse interactions between prescription medications, it’s imperative that seniors develop and maintain a good medication management plan that will allow them to effectively manage each of their different prescription medications.
Here are some ideas to help you develop a plan that works for you.
Tips for Remembering to Take Your Medication
Use a pill box.
A pill box that is marked with the days of the week is a great way to keep track of which medications you need to take on a daily basis. If you take different doses of medication in the morning and night, you can designate a box for each time (a dark-colored one for night and a light-colored one for day, for example). In order to ensure that you’re filling your boxes correctly, keep a chart that details your daily medication schedule and carefully consult this chart when you fill the boxes each week.
Incorporate your medications into your routine.
If you have a busy schedule, it can be extra difficult to remember to take your medication at the correct time. Because of this, it can be helpful to link your medications into your daily routine. For example, you brush get into the habit of taking your pills immediately after you brush your teeth in the morning or right after you brush them at night. By picking a routine daily activity and using it as a reminder to take your medication, you create a new habit that goes a long way toward helping you remember your pills.
Give yourself reminders.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re taking your medication at the right times is to place a sticky note on your mirror, kitchen cupboard or steering wheel to remind yourself to take your meds. If it is difficult for you to remember whether you’ve already taken your pills, keep a calendar in a convenient location and mark the days off in a brightly colored marker each time you take your pills.
Use an alarm.
You probably use an alarm clock to wake up in the morning so why not use one to remind yourself to take your medications? You can easily set an alarm on your phone, your watch or your actual alarm clock to remind you when it’s time to take your meds.
Use a medical alert device.
If you need more help remembering to take your meds, consider using an alarmed medication reminder, which can remind you to take your pills or to head to a doctor’s appointment.
Enlist home care.
For seniors who have a difficult time remembering to take their medications, a home care aide may be an ideal solution. In addition to helping you remember your medications, a home care aid can also help complete daily household tasks, assist you in getting to doctor’s appointments and handle some of the daily cooking and cleaning.
Tips for Protecting Yourself from Dangerous Drug Interactions
Keep a detailed list.
Even if you always remember to take your medications, it can still be difficult to remember which medications your taking and how many you’ll need to refill every time you head to the pharmacist. Therefore, it’s wise to keep a detailed list of each medication you’re taking, including herbal supplements, over-the-counter medication and any prescription drugs. In addition to helping you keep track of your own medication, this list is can also be taken to doctor visits in order to ensure that you’re getting the correct medications and that your risk for drug interactions remains low.
Communicate with your doctor.
Doctors do the best they can to get you the correct medication, but sometimes prescription drugs have unforeseen reactions. Because of this, it’s wise to stay in good contact with your doctor. Don’t hesitate to call if you feel that you are having an adverse reaction to medication or if you’re concerned that your medications aren’t interacting well together. The doctor may be able to prescribe you a different medication or look for alternative therapy options to help you feel better. One-third of all seniors haven’t talked to a doctor about all of their prescription medications for the last year. Don’t let yourself be a statistic – keep in contact with your doctor to ensure your medications are as safe and effective as they were the day they were prescribed.
Ask to minimize medications.
When you meet with your doctor, ask if there is anything you can do to minimize the number of medications you take on a daily basis. The doctor may be able to suggest a non-pharmacological treatment that makes more sense or can replace a pill. If this is not possible, the doctor may still be able to limit the number of medications you have to take more than once each day. The fewer the pills you take, the lower your risk of adverse reactions to your medication.
Pick one pharmacy and stick to it.
If you’re taking several medications and each of them is filled by a different pharmacy, it can feel impossible to keep track of it all. For this reason, it’s wise to pick one pharmacy and use it for all of your prescription needs. This can help prevent negative drug interactions and make filling your prescriptions a one-stop event. Once you’ve chosen your pharmacy, ask if they offer an auto-refill service. Most pharmacies do and many even offer a phone reminder when it’s time to come pick up your next round of medications. Finally, choosing one pharmacy allows you to develop a relationship with the pharmacist, who can be a valuable ally in your care. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist questions if you have concerns about your medication. Although a pharmacist doesn’t replace your doctor, they can be an important resource for medication-related questions and concerns.
The Case for Medication Management: How it Can Help You Lead a Healthier Life
As you age, it’s likely that you’ll begin taking prescription medications to treat symptoms and remain healthy and active. While prescription medications are often helpful and needed, they can create a frustrating daily routine that is difficult to keep track of. If you take several medications each day, developing and utilizing a good medication management plan is an imperative step in ensuring that you stay healthy for years to come.
Because medications can interact badly with one another, creating a medication management plan does more than just helps you stay organized: it also helps you stay safe. By knowing which medications you’re taking, you can take charge of your own health care and help ensure that you remain at low risk for adverse drug interactions. When prescription medications are taken correctly, they can help seniors and aging adults lead vibrant lives in their golden years and when you develop a medication management plan that works for you, it can take a huge burden out of your life and free you up to worry about more important things – like spending time with friends and family.