5 Tips From Pharmacists for Older Adults
Medication plays a big role in the aging process, with nearly nine out of every 10 people over the age of 65 reporting that they take at least one prescription medication. Additionally, more than half of seniors over the age of 65 report taking four or more prescription drugs as part of their health regimen. This creates plenty of opportunity to get to know your local pharmacist.
Pharmacists are health professionals who specialize in preparing and understanding the use of different medicines. Given their vast knowledge of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and how they interact with one another, pharmacists are in an excellent position to advise seniors on their health care journey, and in some cases, to ensure their safety.
If you’re not sure about the exact role a pharmacist can play in your health care plan, here are five ways they can be of service to elderly patients:
One of the biggest ways that pharmacists can assist older adults is by helping them with medication adherence. Since so many older adults take a variety of medications, it can be hard for them to keep track of all of them, leading to eventual mismanagement of their medications. According to an article written by pharmacist Steve Leuck for Pharmacy Times , most of the seniors he talks with spread out taking their pills to six or seven times a day, which can lead to making mistakes when it comes to medication adherence. In order to get them down to taking medications just three or four times a day, Leuck will sit down with them to “take some time to look at everything and discuss what can be given together. Often, seniors mistakenly think that they can't take one pill with another. In this situation, simple education goes a long way toward ensuring medication adherence.”
As Leuck said, education about medications can be quite effective in ensuring that seniors are taking their medications properly. Leuck has found that there are a variety of barriers to seniors understanding how to take their medications and how they potentially interact with one another. Leuck has found that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the best way to educate older adults about their medications. The most important factor in medication education, says Leuck, is ensuring that seniors “shouldn’t guess with their medications … Quite often, seniors feel as if they don’t want to bother their pharmacist with questions [but] they need to know and understand that we work for them and are a resource.”
Knowing that pharmacists are often a regular and reliable point of contact for older adults, the National Council on Aging partnered with the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists in an effort to reduce the risk of falls. Their comprehensive fall prevention toolkit aims to provide screening and assessment tools in order to determine a senior’s fall risk, especially when they take certain medications together. The goal is to encourage “pharmacists [to] evaluate all medications a patient is taking and educate older adults and their caregivers about any medications that may increase their risk of falling, potential alternatives, and communicate these findings with other members of the healthcare team.” Should the pharmacist discover any potential fall risk with current medications, they have access to a list of alternative medications that can potentially lower the risk. If you’ve experienced falls, be sure to discuss it with your pharmacist in order to brainstorm a viable solution.
A disconnect in the current health care system keeps many doctors, specialists and caregivers separated from one another, which can lead to mistakes when it comes to medication management. The California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP) Foundation compiled a report of findings on how pharmacists can better bridge the gap in care for older adults. When pharmacists are more involved with the greater continuum of care, the CSHP Foundation found that there are lower rates of “hospital readmissions or medication errors and adverse events for older adults.” Be sure to let your pharmacist know about all of the different doctors and specialists you see, and for which health conditions. The more your pharmacist knows about your health, the better they can advise you on the ideal medications and management solutions.
Research has also shown that a little less than half of older adults who take prescription medication have “experienced various problems accessing prescription drugs through their drug plan in the past 12 months.” The majority of issues they have faced are due to financial limitations, which has increasingly become a serious problem for many Americans. The good news? You don’t have to suffer in silence. According to a 2021 study, many Americans have been depending on their pharmacists to help them find more affordable alternatives to their expensive medications. In fact, 62% of pharmacists said that their responsibilities have expanded during the pandemic, including “helping patients find new ways to save money on their prescriptions.”
The takeaway? Pharmacists are there to assist you in ways beyond just filling your prescription. You can depend on them to help you or your loved ones make better decisions about your health.