Managing Your Elderly Parent’s Medications

If your elderly parent is taking a lot of medications, he or she is not alone. Studies show that 87% of seniors take one prescription drug, 36% take five or more, and 38% use over-the-counter medications.

Taking medicine correctly is vital. That’s why medication management for seniors is so important.

Creating a simple system can help your loved one avoid common medication mistakes like taking the wrong drug, missing doses, or taking more than prescribed.

Here's a place to start.

Gather all medications, vitamins, OTC meds, and supplements into one location

If medication, vitamins, over-the-counter medication, or supplements are stored in different locations, it’s easy to lose track of everything. It’s especially important to include over-the-counter medications because they could still cause negative drug reactions when combined with prescription medications. When everything is in one place, you can see exactly what is being taken, make sure similar prescriptions aren’t being prescribed for the same health condition, and know when to dispose of expired medications. To stay organized and increase medication safety, keep all their current pill bottles and packages together.

Make sure medication is stored properly

In general, medication should be kept in a cool and dry place. The bathroom cabinet isn’t a good place to keep medications because moisture and heat can affect drugs. Medications should also be kept away from children or pets. For medication that requires specific storage, like refrigeration, follow the doctor or pharmacist’s instructions.

Create and maintain an up-to-date medication list

To prevent negative drug interactions, you need to know exactly what medications your loved one is taking. Keep an up-to-date list of their medications, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications.

This form can help. Don't forget to bring an updated copy to every doctor's appointment.

Pre-sort medications for the week

The best type of pill organizer for your parent is one with enough compartments for every dose they’ll need throughout the day. If pills need to be split, consider doing this ahead of time and include those halves in the pill organizer compartments.

Double check for negative drug interactions

Many older adults are taking multiple medications, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, or supplements. Check to make sure none of them will cause negative drug interactions. To make sure there aren’t any interactions that the doctor or pharmacist could have missed, use an online drug interaction checker like this one from AARP to look for problems. If any interactions are found, call the doctor or pharmacist for advice right away. Don’t make any changes on your own.

Plan ahead for refills

Get refills on time so your parent won’t miss doses. One option is to ask the doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply through a mail-order pharmacy. Another option is to arrange for automatic refills from your local pharmacy. Some pharmacies may also have free prescription delivery services. New online pharmacy services like PillPack, Blink Health, or Amazon Pharmacy offer home delivery and medication coordination services, often with nice discounts. Keep in mind that online pharmacies can’t dispense or deliver all medications, so it's a good idea to check that your older adult’s drugs are included before switching to a new service. If all else fails, mark the refill dates on your calendar so you’ll always remember to order a refill and pick it up before your loved one’s supply runs out.

If you're looking after an elderly parent and you could use a hand, Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law can help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.

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