It’s not easy becoming a family caregiver for an aging parent or grandparent, but you can make the process easier by learning how to provide proper medication management for seniors. The tips in this article can help!
Becoming a caregiver to one, or both, of your aging parents or grandparents can create a difficult transition. The amount of responsibility assumed depends on the health and care needs of your loved one. One of the most important roles you’ll take on is managing their medications.
Seniors typically take multiple medications for multiple conditions, or have a strict medication regimen to follow for managing chronic conditions. Each medication they take comes with its own set of instructions about when, how, and how much to take, and sometimes what to take it with. Keeping it all straight to prevent adverse drug reactions and potentially dangerous drug interactions can be a daunting task.
However, with good organization on your part and proper communication with your loved one’s doctors and other healthcare providers, you can safely manage all their medicines. Below is a list of some of the best advice for medication management for seniors.
Create and Maintain an Updated List of Medications
To help keep track of all medications and supplements (such as vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies), start by creating a master list. You can do this in paper form or you can use healthcare apps with medication tracking tools and medication reminders to make managing the list easier.
Be sure to add and subtract from the list of “current” medications as things change, but keep record of previously taken medications as a doctor may want to have that historical information in the future.
Whether your medication list is in paper or electronic form, having one master list you can turn to will:
- Help you and your loved one remember the medications that need to be taken and when
- Help you quickly answer questions from healthcare providers about their medications
- Allow you to share the medication list with doctors easily
- Allow you to provide comprehensive medication information to emergency responders
Details to include in this list are the name of each medication, dosage, purpose, frequency (per day, as needed, etc.), prescribing doctor information (doctor name and phone number) and any special notes, such as refill dates or specific instructions like “take with food.”
Use Pill Management Tools Like Pill Boxes To Sort Medications
Pill boxes designed to help you separate and organize medications come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. Let’s say you are taking care of your parent and they have multiple medications they take throughout the day. Finding a pill box with compartments that allow you to divide pills into multiple sections per day according to time taken (such as a.m., midday, p.m., and bedtime) can be very useful.
In one AARP article, the author found it helpful to fill more than one week at a time. She used multiple pill boxes so she could divide up an entire month in one sitting. She said this saved her time and helped her to keep better track of when medications needed refilling.
Use One Pharmacy To Help Monitor Medication Lists
The most dangerous aspect of taking multiple medications is the possibility for adverse reactions, especially life threatening ones. Using only one pharmacy is not necessary, but it can help make it easier for a single pharmacist to keep track of every medication that is being used and alert you to potential problems.
Stay Informed About the Right Way to Use Medications
Maintain communication with all your loved one’s doctors and pharmacist. Ask questions so you feel confident you understand the medication being taken and why it’s being prescribed, and you are aware of the potential side effects and the proper way to administer the medication.
Be Vigilant About Medication Adherence
While it is not possible to watch over your loved one every hour of every day, vigilance is important, especially to avoid prescription non-adherence issues. Take note of any physical or psychological changes, especially when adding new medications or changing current ones. Pay attention to the pill box to help ensure medication compliance (making sure doctor’s instructions are being followed and medication doses aren't being forgotten or ignored).
Managing medications is a constantly evolving process. The health of your parents or grandparents will change over time, and your approach to managing their medications may need to change as well. Other things to consider that may aid in medication management:
- If your loved one experiences dementia, it may necessitate hiding the medicine bottles and pill boxes. This can help prevent them from overdosing on a medication due to confusion.
- You may need to find a way to remind your loved one to take the medication. With today's technology, you can accomplish this in different ways. Some pill boxes come with alarms that will alert a person when it is time to take their medicine. These fancy pill boxes can also be set up to send alerts to a phone to let you know if medicines have or have not been taken. You can also leverage the benefits of mobile health by tracking personal health data on smartphones and health apps, including managing medication lists and setting reminders for taking medications.
- Keep your loved one informed about their medications and why they have to take them. Aging is a difficult process that sometimes comes with a loss of capability, physically or mentally, that isn’t easy to accept. By including them in their care and engaging them in making healthcare decisions, you can help take the sting out of aging and having to rely on someone else.
- Pay attention to and discuss any need to adapt the medication with your loved one’s doctor. For example, if your parent starts out with a pill that eventually becomes too hard to swallow, there may be other options. Always check with the doctor or pharmacist to find safer and more effective alternatives to medications and ways to administer the medications.
Aging is difficult, both for the loved one and the caregiver. By staying organized and vigilant, and by maintaining proper communication with your loved one’s doctor and pharmacist, you can safely manage their medications.
CareSync Can Help With Medication Management for Seniors
CareSync, the top choice in Chronic Care Management companies, offers care coordination services that can help family caregivers manage their loved one’s care and make the process of medication management easier.
For example, we offer a care coordination app that makes it easy to create medication lists and share them with healthcare providers. This healthcare app also features a medication reminder option that can alert your loved one when it’s time to take their medicine, as well as areas where you can enter additional information, such as medication effectiveness or side effects. The care coordination app has a wide range of features that also help you track symptoms, progress toward healthcare goals, and bio-health measurements (including syncing with many popular healthcare trackers).
Additionally, if your loved one has CareSync care coordination services, our Health Assistants can help with medication adherence and management. They will reconcile medications (looking for possible adverse drug interactions), provide educational information about medications and chronic conditions, schedule appointments, help your loved one follow through on their doctor’s instructions, and identify healthcare resources to improve diet, exercise, and more.