Medication Management Can Keep Seniors Out of the Hospital
Hospitals save the lives of many seniors each year. Yet studies show that time spent in the hospital can leave seniors vulnerable to infections, delirium, bedsores, sleeplessness and even falls. Many patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge—often due to a complication related to the hospital stay, rather than the original ailment. Re-admissions cost consumers, Medicare, and insurance companies billions of dollars each year.
What is behind this growing problem? One factor is the number of medications we take. As we get older and live longer, we are more likely to be taking one or more medications for chronic health conditions. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that among adults 65 years of age or older, 40% take five to nine medications. About 18% take 10 or more. Each one of those comes with possible side effects, ranging from headaches or dizziness to more serious complications like internal bleeding or kidney damage. For example, an arthritis medication may also raise the risk of a debilitating fall.
Still other health problems result when seniors forget to take their medications. According to research from the National Institute of Health, more than 50% of adverse drug reactions in older adults are preventable.
Many nursing homes and other supportive living communities have full-time medication aides to help residents take their prescription drugs correctly and identify negative side effects. But what about seniors who live alone or with family?
Even with no changes in a person’s cognitive abilities, our bodies change over time. A medication that we once tolerated might suddenly cause problems. But if our memory begins to decline, it’s likely we won’t notice the problem right away.
“Day-to-day functioning is incredibly important. If you don’t have these abilities and don’t have someone to help you, it can threaten your life,” said Dr. Mark Lachs, director of Cornell University’s Center for Aging Research.
Medication management is one of the ways older adults can avoid these dangerous complications. Older adults should bring all their medications to their doctor for regular review, including any over-the-counter medicines, creams or supplements. That includes medication that may not be taken regularly!
It can feel overwhelming to make sure an older loved one is taking the correct medications at the correct time and in the right dosage. In-home caregivers can help older adults avoid costly and dangerous hospitalizations in several ways.
How Home Care Helps
Helping clients fill prescriptions. In-home caregivers can take clients to the pharmacy or pick up prescriptions.
Reminding clients to take their medications on time and in the right way. Following the instructions of family and the client’s healthcare provider, in-home caregivers provide medication reminders and notify family of any problems with maintaining the schedule.
Helping clients use memory aids. Pill organizers, specially packaged doses, medication checklists and calendars for keeping track of the timing and amount of drug doses are great aids. In-home caregivers help ensure these devices are used properly.
Reporting negative drug interactions. Professional caregivers are alert to signs such as sleepiness, confusion, dizziness, or other changes that might signal the need for a medication review.
Promoting all-around wellness. In-home caregivers prepare nutritious meals, supervise exercise, encourage socialization, and drive clients to healthcare appointments. In some cases, seniors who practice lifestyle improvements may need less medication for pain and depression. Remember to talk to the healthcare provider before making any changes.
Medication management is one of the many ways that home care keeps seniors healthier, provides valuable peace of mind for families and saves everyone money. Contact Right at Home for a free in-home assessment to get started.