Adverse drug reactions and non-compliance with prescription medication directives are a major cause of emergency room visits for seniors. There are many reasons why they occur including confusion when seniors are taking several medications, cognitive decline, cost factors that cause seniors to take less medication than prescribed and a perception that more than the appropriate dose is needed to improve health or taking a medication is no longer necessary. While preventing all side effects of medications is not always possible, family members and professional caregivers can play a role in helping seniors to stay safe when over the counter and prescription drugs are involved.

Know What Medications the Senior is Taking

Keeping an up to date list of all medications, prescription and non-prescription, helps those who are caring for seniors to know exactly what the senior is taking. Keep a copy of this list on hand for any emergency situations, and always be sure to share it with doctors and nurses during each visit. This helps doctors to properly assess any side effects the senior may be experiencing, make accurate changes in dosage and eliminate or change medications if a new prescription must be added to the list.

Store Medications Properly

Most medications should be stored at room temperature and in a dry place, but some have special handling instructions. Ask your doctor or a pharmacist how to store medications properly each time a new one is prescribed. Make note of any specific storage instructions such as if  a medication needs to be refrigerated or kept in darkness. Doing this impacts the effectiveness and safety of the medication and can prevent early spoilage or reduced potency.

Another note on storage – If medications are in the home of a senior with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, keep pill boxes and bottles of medication locked in a safe place, out of sight and reach of the senior. Also request child safe bottles and use only child safe pill boxes in order to protect your loved one from a dangerous overdose.

Keep Track of Medication Consumption with a Pill Box

If a senior is taking more than one medication or has to take medications at different times of day, keeping track of what pill was consumed when can be difficult. A simple pill box helps to prevent missed doses and improper dosing too. Pill boxes can help family caregivers to better understand when seniors need medication reminders or the assistance of a professional caregiver to stay on track with their health.  When professional home health nurses are involved, a pill box can also provide reassurance to family that medications are being administered as directed.

Only Take Medications as Prescribed

Many seniors skip doses of medication to save money or because they feel like they don’t need the prescription any longer. This is especially common for conditions like high blood pressure where there are often no indications of poor health. Alternately, some seniors will use medications that have not been prescribed to them – such as an antibiotic that was prescribed to a family member for a previous illness. Only take medications as prescribed to preserve health. If you feel like you need a medication, discuss it with your doctor. If you believe a prescription is no longer necessary, seek medical counsel before stopping it.

Maintain an Open Dialogue with Health Care Providers

Finally, make sure to discuss your medications or those that your aging loved one is taking at every doctor’s visit. Your physician is an ally in protecting your health, and it is important to share with this person any side effects or adverse reactions you may be experiencing when using a medication. If a medication is not being taken as prescribed, your physician needs to have that information as well. Open lines of communication help to protect health and make it easier for your doctor to know when it’s time to adjust a medication, discontinue its usage or prescribe something different that may be more effective or decrease the risk of negative side effects.

Seniors deserve to live full and active lives, and one way to ensure their health and longevity is by carefully following instructions for both prescription and over the counter medications. If your loved one needs assistance with medication reminders or the administering of prescription drugs, Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley is here to help. Call our 24/7 hotline at 888-725-8742 to discuss your family’s specific needs and learn more about our nationally accredited home care and home health programs.


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