Seniors and medications seem to go hand in hand. In fact, almost 90% of all adults age 65 and older take at least one prescription, and more than half of them are taking four or more meds. They’re frightening statistics, when you consider that these medications can have the power to heal and help (when taken correctly) or cause significant harm.
In many cases, doctors leave it to the pharmacy to provide information on dosage, side effects, contraindications with other meds, foods, or beverages, and more. It’s easy to see how some of these details can fall through the cracks. And while it may be perfectly fine to miss a dose of one medication, it might be deadly to miss another.
Medication management assistance plays a crucial role in ensuring a senior is following a recommended prescription regimen to maintain, recover or improve a wellness sate or medical condition. There are several components to medication management to understand in determining if it’s right for an aging adult in your life.
Why is medication management important – and what are the risks of improper medication management?
Simply put, medications can’t do what they’re intended to do if they’re not taken as prescribed. Recovery can be jeopardized. There are physical and mental consequences without proper medication management.
A senior may be forgetful, may neglect to tell different physicians about all of the medications being taken, or simply isn’t competent to follow a prescription regimen. Incorrectly taken medications can be detrimental to the impact the medication can have, or the value of taking a prescription can be negated altogether or even lead to a fall or other serious injury.
It’s important to know what questions to ask the doctor about all of the medications a senior is taking, such as:
- Is this medication simply helpful, or is it essential?
- Is it life-threatening to miss a dose or take it incorrectly?
- Are there foods, drinks, or other medications I should avoid while taking this prescription?
Also, it’s helpful to bring ALL medications being taken – including over-the-counter meds, vitamins, and supplements – to doctors’ appointments. This way, doctors are aware of what’s being prescribed by other medical professionals and can advise of any potential problems.
When is medication management needed?
There are several signs to watch for that could indicate that medication management is needed:
- You see loose pills in the senior’s home
- A variety of different medications are being taken
- The medications in the home are well past their expiration date
- Recovery or the expected benefits of the medications are not happening
- When the doctor has ordered the senior to stop taking a particular medication, but the senior continues to take the prescription out of habit
What degree of medication management is required?
There are several levels of help available: medication management (setting up meds) and medication administration (giving the meds to the senior at the right time). Again, there are some key considerations to determine what will work best:
- Is the senior capable of organizing medications?
- Can the senior precisely follow the instructions of the prescribing doctor(s)?
Based on how you answer these questions, medication management options include:
Pill boxes are filled every week, every two weeks, or once a month. A senior who is filling the boxes independently needs to have the cognitive acuity to know exactly which pills are to be taken when, and then to self-administer those meds at the right time. Alternatively, someone can fill the boxes for the senior and provide either medication reminders or administration of the meds.
Automated Medication Administration
Technology today can help seniors in a wide range of ways, including medication management. There are machines that can be filled to automatically dispense medications on a set schedule. One of the drawbacks to these machines however, is the rigidity of the dosing schedule. Say the senior is to take one medication at lunchtime, but is held up at an appointment and doesn’t make it home in the allotted window of time the machine allows to dispense that med. The dose becomes unavailable; there’s no way to catch up. The machines are often large and cumbersome as well, and many seniors don’t want them sitting out on the counter.
What About Medicare Home Health?
Some people are under the impression that a home health worker coming into the home through Medicare will take care of managing medications. This isn’t the case. A home health worker will teach people how to take medications correctly, but won’t continually do it for them.
In Florida, you can hire anyone you want to manage medications. They don’t need a license or anything else. As you can imagine, there’s a great deal of risk involved. However, the State of Florida requires that if you hire medication management services through an agency, it must be done by a nurse. The rules are also changing about what a home health aide can and can’t do in terms of administering medications. Right at Home of Sarasota’s medication management services, as a part of our professional elder care in Venice, FL and surrounding communities, are provided by either an RN or an LPN under the supervision of the RN.
Managing medications correctly is crucial to seniors’ health. Find the help you need from a trusted source to ensure your older family members are safely adhering to their prescribed medication protocol. Contact us if you’d like to find out how Right at Home can help.