Aging in Place Article 3: Medications
By Victoria Savage RN director of clinical services at Care for Living
(Victoria Savage is an RN with 15 years of experience specializing in Elder care and a passion for seniors that started in early childhood when her best friend was 82 year old Evelyn. She brings passion, knowledge and love to her practice and is fierce in her advocacy of the senior population.)
One pill, two pills, three pills, four….five pills, six pills, seven pills more. Does this feel like you or your loved one? For many seniors, this is their truth.
One of the biggest health risks facing many seniors today is the very thing that is meant to keep them healthy; medications and lots of them.
Some time ago a patient was admitted to the nursing home where I was employed. She was incapable of even speaking. All she was able to do was moan. Our medical director adjusted and eliminated several of her medications and this woman came completely out of her stupor and was totally alert and oriented. Her debilitating symptoms were all medication related.
It’s not unusual for seniors these days to be taking anywhere from 6 to 15 or more different prescription medications a day, and in many cases these medications have been prescribed by more than one physician. This situation in and of itself would be enough to create the potential for many possible interactions and adverse side effects. However, not only are these seniors taking numerous medications, but they’re also adding vitamin and herb supplements as well.
In most cases no problems arise from this and everything stays in balance and works well to promote optimum health and wellbeing. But it is also not uncommon for combinations of prescription medications and over the counter substances to be working against one another causing several problems. Drug interactions can be the cause of anything from hair loss to mental status changes and in some cases even death. These interactions can be difficult to identify because many times the physician is working with limited information. It is not uncommon for patients to forget to mention the supplements they’re taking because they don’t see them as important since they are just over the counter. They also sometimes forget to tell the physician about all the other prescription medication they’re taking. The consequences from this can be devastating.
Another very common problem with any amount of medications that the senior might be taking, is taking the medications properly. Often the senior will forget whether the meds have been taken especially when there are different time schedules for the medications. If there isn’t a system in place such as a pill box or medi-set, the senior will either not take their medications because they think they already did, or they will take too much because they forgot that they’d already taken them.
So here are a few tips to help keep from being one of the statistics:
Make a list of your medications, vitamins and supplements and update it with every new prescription or over the counter addition. Carry the list with you at all times and especially when you visit your doctor, and ask him/her to review it.
Have your pharmacist review your med list as well. They should be very willing to offer this as a service. If they aren’t, switch pharmacies.
Buy a pill box or medication set container that will hold a week’s worth of your medication and fill it every week. This takes the guess work out of the process.
Medication is certainly a great thing to our aging society. It is in fact one of the contributing factors to our increasing lifespan, but it is also a slippery slope full of many hidden dangers if not properly managed and can contribute to a premature need for facility placement.
If you have questions or concerns about yourself or a loved one please feel free to call or email Victoria Savage at Care for Living, where our missionis “Helping seniors live safer, healthier lives in their own home.”
“The care seniors need to live safer and healthier in their own homes”