If you are a caregiver for a senior loved one, helping them stay on track with their medication schedule is likely one of your priorities. It can be a challenge for many reasons, ranging from juggling multiple medications to having prescriptions refilled on a timely basis. But there are other concerns family caregivers might not be aware of that can put their loved one at risk.
Here’s what caregivers should know about medication safety and seniors.
Senior Safety: 5 Medication Risks to Learn More About
- Drug interactions and adverse reactions: Older adults are at higher risk for adverse reactions to medication and for drug interactions. Because the body processes medication differently as we age, it can put an older adult at risk for problems. Sometimes it causes an accidental overdose and other times it can render a medication ineffective.
As a group, seniors also take more medication than younger adults. That can lead to negative interactions between medications. It all adds up to seniors being hospitalized for medication-related problems at a four times greater rate than younger adults.
- Small print on medication labels: If you’ve struggled to read the label on a prescription bottle lately you can sympathize with this one. Vision loss can make it difficult for older adults to read the directions on their medication. The good news is that most pharmacies can create large print labels that are safer for older adults to read and follow.
- Physical impairments: Another concern to be mindful of is any physical impairments that make taking medication more difficult. Some chronic health conditions cause swallowing difficulties. A senior may be non-compliant with their medication because they avoid swallowing large pills for fear of choking. Arthritis in the hands can make it difficult to open pill bottles with child-proof lids. If your loved one has any physical challenges that make it difficult for them to take their medication, talk with the pharmacist or physician about safer alternatives.
- Lack of coordination among physicians: When several different physicians are involved in a senior’s care, the risk for a negative interaction among medications increases. While some health care systems share electronic records, independent physician groups aren’t always a part of the system. Make sure to share an updated list of your loved ones medications with every physician they see. It also helps to have prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. Most pharmacies have technology that alerts the pharmacist to potential interactions.
- Memory loss: When a senior is a little forgetful or if they have dementia, medication management can be risky. Technology can help to some degree. Locked, timed systems like MedMinder wirelessly open up only the dosage compartment the senior needs to take at that time. A light flashes and an alarm sounds to alert the senior to take the medication. These types of systems can also text the caregiver if a dosage is missed.
Medication Management at Five Star Senior Living
At Five Star Senior Living communities, helping residents safely manage their medications is one of our top priorities. Our team members work one-on-one with assisted living and memory care residents to ensure they take each medication as prescribed, and to watch for any potential problems. Call us today to learn more!