Medication Management: 10 Helpful Tips and Tricks for Managing Your Medication

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.

The Role of Patient Education in Reducing Hospital Readmissions

According to Medicare, at least 20 percent of all patients who are admitted to a hospital will be readmitted within 30 days of being discharged. However, 75 percent of these readmissions could possibly be prevented with better care and education. Because driving down the high number of re-hospitalizations is not a simple task, hospitals, health systems, and health care professionals should all work together with the patients.

Why is there a need to reduce hospital readmissions?

These are some of the reasons why there is a need to lower the number of re-hospitalization:

  • To reduce the pressure brought on hospitals due to high readmissions
  • To lessen the dissatisfaction patients feel when they repeatedly find themselves back in the hospital
  • To reduce the cost of readmission on Medicare, state Medicaid programs, and private health plans

How does education help in preventing hospital readmission?

Patients who clearly understand their after-hospital care instructions, which includes how and when to take their medicines and when to return for their follow-up appointments are 30 percent less likely to be readmitted than patients who don’t have this information. Unfortunately, a huge number of hospitalized patients do not receive education on how to take care of themselves.

Project RED

According to Jack BW et al. in Annals of Internal Medicine, Project RED (Re-Engineered Hospital Discharge Program) intervention provides the strongest evidence that supports the efficacy of enhancing hospital-based discharge processes.

In this program, a specially trained nurse conducts patient education while the patient is still in the hospital, arranges follow-up appointments, confirms medication routines, and prepares a patient-specific instruction booklet. Project RED also involves a pharmacist’s follow-up call to the patient 2-4 days after discharge to confirm the medication plan and to clarify any questions.

As a result of Project RED, 370 participants had 30 percent fewer readmissions and emergency visits than the 368 patients who did not participate in the intervention. The data shows that there is a significant connection between patient education and reduced hospital readmissions.

Qualities that make patient education programs achieve the best results:

Education efforts are routinely directed toward the key learner

The term “key learner” does not only refer to the patient but could involve any individual who accompanies the patient during doctor’s appointments, assists the patient take his or her medications, takes care of the patient at home, and listens in to instructions at the time of the patient’s hospital discharge. In many cases, this role falls on the patient’s home health aide, which will be noted by the education providers to make sure that they will involve this individual in their teaching efforts.

Education providers consistently assess the patients’ comprehension of the information they give.

The “teach back” strategy has been proven to very effective in determining the patient’s understanding of the concepts taught to them. In this approach, key learners are asked to communicate what they learned in their own words. Education providers could also guide them by asking questions related to the patient’s condition. For instance, the staff can ask the question “What is the name of the diuretic or water pill you take?” from a heart failure patient.

The “teach back” strategy could also be used by asking the patient different questions every day during his or her stay in the hospital. These questions can be knowledge-related (What steps are involved in following a low-sodium diet?), attitude-related (Why is it important to take your water pill daily?), and behavior-related (How will you remember to check for symptoms of heart failure every day?).

Organizational practice puts patient education as a priority.

Educating patients entails additional man hours, which is why it’s important for the organization or the hospital to make patient education a priority. Besides, through multitasking and by maintaining clear documentation, discussions related to patient education would take less than 10 minutes per day.

Technologies and strategies are used to make activities related to patient education fit easily into the hospital employees’ flow of work.

Because patient education entails extra work for the hospital employees, it is necessary for strategies to be applied to make the adoption of the education system smooth. It is also important to make the scheme easy for the hospital employees to use in addition to their regular workload.

One example of such system is a software that prompts the hospital worker at a predetermined time to conduct the “teach back” strategy, including the questions that he or she can ask the patient.

Materials related to patient education are created with the patient in mind

The best education materials are designed to clarify concepts that patients may have trouble understanding. This means that, whenever possible, simple words and instructions should be used. Highlighting important information, such as a new medication should also be done to let patients know of the data’s significance.

How can home health aides help in reducing hospital readmissions?

Home health aides not only perform a vital role in the maintenance of the health and well-being of their patients, they are also important factors in protecting their patients from re-hospitalization. To do so, a home health aide should:

Communicate with the discharge planner. Before the patient leaves the hospital, the home health aide must speak with the hospital discharge planner and go over both parties’ expectations regarding the patient’s recovery, scheduling, and the provision of post-discharge care.

Organize the patient’s follow-up appointments. Inadequate follow-up and monitoring are some of the typical reasons for re-hospitalization. Unfortunately, fewer than half of patients see their doctor for a follow-up appointment between discharge and readmission. According to research, it is crucial for a patient to see a doctor within seven days of discharge to reduce the likelihood of his or her readmission to the hospital. In this instance, the patient or the home health aide and the hospital need to stay in close contact through phone calls for reminders to schedule and keep appointments.

Be familiar with the patient’s medication requirements. Based on research, adverse medication events account for over half of hospital readmissions among elderly patients. This means that patients need to receive a medication review upon admission, during the patient’s stay in the hospital, and upon discharge. There should also be medication education and counseling, as well as a regularly scheduled follow-up online or by phone.

Moreover, even before the home health aide returns home with the patient, it is important for him or her to understand everything about the patient’s medication routine. This is also the time for him or her to clarify questions about the prescriptions, especially if there are new ones.

Be mindful of the risk factors for re-hospitalization. There are factors that increase the risk of readmission in some patients. A diagnosis of heart failure or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are examples of such risk factors. Home health aides must learn all the possible risk factors so he or she will be appropriately prepared for any eventualities and deal with them in the appropriate manner.

Carefully monitor the patient’s condition. Home health aides are trained to note the changes in their patient’s behavior and determine whether these changes could lead to re-hospitalization due to an adverse event.

Keep the home free from hazards. An important part of a home health aide’s job description is to make sure that the patient’s home is free from anything that might pose a threat to his or her patient’s health and well-being. This is especially important to reduce the possibility of hospital readmission.

Other ways to prevent re-hospitalization

Aside from patient education, the other ways to prevent hospital readmission are the following:

Conduct real-time monitoring at home. The monitoring of a patient’s care and health status in real-time helps home health aides and other health care providers act swiftly to provide early intervention in the patient’s home. As a result, the need for hospital readmission is reduced.

Participate in a readmission prevention-focused initiative. These types of initiatives allow hospitals and other health care providers to work together and share strategies and best practices for preventing re-hospitalization.

Join incentive programs with payers. Health systems are working together with hospitals to give incentives to providers who successfully reduce preventable re-hospitalization. The guidelines of most incentive programs allow hospitals to realize savings if they were able to drive down the number of readmissions and lose money if readmissions increased.

Pay special attention to patients who are hearing-impaired or who have limited English proficiency. Patients who do not fully understand what is expected of them after their discharge are at greater risk of readmission. This is why it is important for hospitals to work with sign language experts and foreign language interpreters to properly communicate important information to the patients and vice and versa.

Hospital readmission is not only costly, it also puts a strain on the hospitals and could contribute to the patients’ overall frustration and dissatisfaction with their failing health and capabilities. Fortunately, these adverse effects can be avoided through patient education and other ways in which patients, health care professionals, hospitals, and other concerned organizations all work together toward achieving a common goal.



Effective Interventions to Reduce Rehospitalizations: A Survey of the Published Evidence

Reducing Hospital Readmissions with Enhanced Patient Education…/krames_dec_final.pdf

10 Proven Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmissions

5 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Reduce Costly Hospital Readmissions

Can Caregivers Help Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Recommended Vaccines for Adults

Vaccines are an important step in protecting adults against serious, sometimes fatal, diseases.  Even if you were vaccinated at a younger age, the vaccine may have worn off, or you may have developed a resistance to the vaccine.

As you get older, you may be at risk for vaccine preventable diseases due to your age, job, hobbies, travel, or chronic health conditions.

List of Recommended Vaccines for Adults

  • Influenza Vaccine (Flu) is recommended every year.
  • TD Vaccine is recommended every 10 years to protect against Tetanus.
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine is recommended for people who have Type 1 or 2 Diabetes, because they have a higher risk of developing the Hepatitis B Virus.
  • Shingles Vaccine is usually recommended for adults 60 and older.
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine (Pneumonia) is usually recommended for people with heart disease, respiratory illness, and history of stroke, as they are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia and requiring hospitalization.

Staying healthy is a top priority for all of us.  Vaccination is a simple thing you can do to help prevent diseases.  Make sure you have the best protection.  Speak to your doctor to see which vaccines are right for you.

Please visit for a full list of vaccines to further educated yourself about preventing diseases and staying healthy.