Did you know that 40% of seniors take five or more prescriptions? And that number increases as we age. It becomes dangerous when the prescriptions are given by different physicians who are unaware of the other drugs being taken by their patient.
Many seniors, their family members or caregivers may not think of asking if a newly prescribed drug will negatively interact with existing prescriptions or whether it can be mixed with over-the-counter or herbal medications. If your loved one is taking multiple medications, it’s imperative that you ask these questions. Pharmacies have software that alerts them to potential problems, but things break down so it’s a good idea to ask.
Potential Healthcare Challenges
Other issues that can cause a change in the health of your senior family member include:
- Mixing up the names of the drugs. Some prescriptions have similar names, and if your loved one doesn’t see or hear well, they may mistake one for another.
- Forgetting to take pills or taking them at the wrong time of the day or night. Many drugs are meant to be given at a certain time or specific intervals.
- Using expired medications. Although ingesting them may not cause a great deal of harm, drugs past their expiration date are less potent.
- Stopping medication cold turkey. If a prescription doesn’t agree with a senior, they often decide to forgo the drug without first consulting their doctor, which in some cases may be harmful.
- Forgetting to refill a prescription. Your loved one may forget to refill their prescriptions, creating gaps in doses.
- Avoiding filling an order. If a prescription isn’t covered by Medicare or other healthcare plan, a senior may decide to forgo the medication, thus compromising their health.
Over the years, our caregivers at Luxe Homecare have seen it all. Here are some tips on how to make your life and your loved ones a little easier.
Have a Conversation with the Pharmacist
Talk to your pharmacist. Ask him/her to use the larger print labels so that the medications can be more easily identified. Also, you can request that directions be as specific as possible, including the time of day they are to be taken, with or without food, and how they should be stored.
Create a Chart
A large chart on the wall listing their medications, dosages, when and how they should be taken, and if it should be done on a full or empty stomach, is an easy way to help your senior stay organized. The chart may include photographs of the pill or the prescription bottle, a column for when it was taken, the dosage ingested, the ailment for which it was prescribed, and so on. If you prefer, there are other options such as timer caps that keep track of when medications are taken and are keyed to a downloadable app on your telephone.
Write Down the Medication Names
Make a list of all the medications, dosages, etc. Then make extra copies. Give one to the senior in your life, their caregiver and keep one for yourself. That way no matter where any of you are, you have instant access to your loved one’s medications. You might even tape one to the refrigerator in case the EMT’s need to be called.
Remove Expired Prescriptions
Go through your medications and remove any that have expired. You can get individual bags from the pharmacy to safely dispose of the drugs.
When Drugs Get Mixed Up
The Institute for Safe Medication Practices has put together a list of medications that have similar sounding names. Here are a few examples: Amicar and Omacor, Aricept and Azilect and Antivert and Axert. For the complete list, visit: http://www.consumermedsafety.org/tools-and-resources/medication-safety-tools-and-resources/know-your-medicine/list-of-confused-drug-names.
Seniors often wait until they are completely out of their prescription before having it refilled, causing a gap in their doses. This can be remedied with an instant refill plan at the pharmacy.
Common Medication Interactions
Your loved ones’ physicians and pharmacist should be aware of all medications, including over-the-counter and herbal, to make sure that they will affect one another. For example, over the counter medications such as ibuprofen may irritate the stomach lining, while aspirin, which can also damage the stomach, is not recommended for individuals using blood thinners. Foods can also disrupt how medications are absorbed. Grapefruits, oranges, broccoli, etc. which contain significant amounts of Vitamin C may make blood thinners less effective. For more information on potentially dangerous food/drug interactions visit, https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/common-food-drug-interactions.
Luxe Homecare caregivers are carefully selected and matched to each client. They are trained, licensed and bonded to provide your loved one with the highest quality of care available in the homecare industry. To find out more about Luxe, visit luxehomecare.com, email info@LuxeHC.com or call us at (310) 459-3535.