Senior Living: How to Keep Track of Meds to Prevent Errors & Helpful Tips

Jan 16, 2018
elderly hands sorting pills

For most seniors, taking medication is just a regular part of daily life. In fact, statistics show that nearly 90 percent of aging adults take a least one prescription medication daily, while 36 percent take five or more medications.

Keeping track of these medications – including dosages, timing, refills, counteractions and everything that comes with them – would be hard for even the sharpest of minds. But errors aren’t optional and could even result in serious injury or death.

Do you want to make sure you or your loved one is managing their medication properly and safely? Here are some tips to help.

Set up reminders.

Forgetting to take a medication is one of the most common problems seniors come across. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent this. If the senior has a smartphone, you can use it to configure daily alerts for each medication. You can also post a calendar in a very visible spot in their home – like on the fridge or in the bathroom, or you can enlist a family member to make a reminder phone call every day at a certain time. If you have to, set up multiple alerts for each medication to make doubly sure no pill is missed.

Encourage daily habits.

The best way to remember a medication is to work it into the senior’s regular, daily routine. If possible, have them take their medications first thing when they wake up, with some milk, tea or their breakfast. Making it a part of their daily routine will make it second nature over time – and something they’re less likely to forget no matter what their health may look like.

Get a pill organizer or dispenser.

If your loved one is taking multiple medications, purchase a pill organizer to divvy them out and make it easy to know which medication to take on which day. Go ahead and pre-sort at least a few weeks of pills for your loved one if you won’t be stopping by soon, and make sure to put the organizer in a very visible place your loved one is sure to see.

Arrange for pharmacy deliveries.

Seniors who have a hard time remembering to take a medication certainly aren’t going to remember to drive to the pharmacy for a refill either. Don’t want to run the chance of your loved one running out of their life-saving medications? Then set up pharmacy deliveries on their behalf. Most pharmacy chains and drug stores offer these services nowadays; it’s just a matter of calling, setting up delivery dates and giving payment info.

If delivery isn’t available where your loved one lives, arrange for transportation for them. Enlist a friend or family member to come by on XX day, every month, to take them to the pharmacy to retrieve their medications.

Other Medication Safety Precautions

All medications are different. Some must be taken with food or drink, while others need to be consumed on an empty stomach. Many are contraindicative to over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, and still others have specific storage instructions to ensure they’re safe and effective.

Here are some ways to ensure your aging loved one is safe from all angles:

  • Put together a full, up to date medication list and bring it to their primary doctor. Chances are, many of these medications have been prescribed by different specialists and practitioners, and they may not be fully aware of the other medications they’re taking. Have your loved one’s PCP give their full medication list a once-over to ensure none of the prescriptions have adverse interactions with one another. Be sure to include any vitamins and supplements on the list as well.
  • Gather all the medications and look at storage instructions. Do any need to be refrigerated? Do they all say a cool, dry place is necessary? If so, arrange a spot in your loved one’s home where the pills can be kept safely and per instructions. Generally, a bathroom cabinet is too humid and moist for safe medication keeping, so consider a cabinet elsewhere in the home, away from kids or pets.
  • Check any new drugs. Did your loved one recently get a new prescription? Call their doctor or check this drug interaction tool to make sure it won’t affect any other medications they’re taking. If it doesn’t, add the medication to their list, and be sure they have it on them next time they have a doctor appointment.
  • Get clear on all medication consumption directions. Look through each medication and make sure you’re clear on how all of them must be consumed. Are any to be taken with food or water? What about on an empty stomach? Group medications with the same instructions together, and make sure to put water bottles, crackers or other light foods with any that require it. You want taking those medications – and taking them properly – to be as easy as possible for your loved one.
  • Know the side effects. Familiarize yourself with any potential side effects of the medication, and brief your loved one on any important effects they should be on the lookout for. Make sure to stop by for your own evaluation on a regular basis, and if something seems off, call their doctor right away. Their dosage may need to be changed or there could be another health condition at work.

For seniors, adhering to their prescribed medication schedule is of the utmost importance. Not only can it help keep them healthy, safe and happy, but it could even prolong their life in the long term.

Do you want help making sure your loved one has all their medication needs taken care of? Ganton’s can help. Our caring staff will monitor their care daily, ensuring they get the right medication, at the right time, in the right way. Come see Ganton’s for yourself.

For information about Countryside, call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

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