Have you ever heard kids make remarks about the amount of pills Grandpa or Grandma take? Children have a tendency to speak what they think whether we like it or not. However, the observation is often pretty accurate. The truth is that senior citizens sometimes find themselves taking a vast array of pills and medications. Finding a way to manage their medication may end up at the top of a caregiver’s to-do list.
The real concern with that much medication being used at the same time is medicine interaction. If your elderly mom or dad takes five, six, seven or more pills at a time, it’s easy to imagine that one of those medications might get into conflict with another. This is not an idle concern.
Many drug related overdoses or interaction problems happen to senior citizens every year because they combined their many prescription medications with over the country drugs or with alcohol, and the chemical reaction in their bodies became explosive. Depending on how many pills and how often they need to take each pill, having a pill dispenser to measure out the drugs for an entire week may help keep it all straight.
Because you are the caregiver to your aging mom or dad, it is up to you to come up with some strict rules that you have to insist become the law of the land for your mom or dad to assure that there is little or no possibility of a drug related reaction which could lead to hospitalization or death.
Here are the key players in keeping your aging parent’s medications under control:
Their primary care physician
Knowledge is power when it comes to managing your aging parent’s medications. And the two key people you should turn to for that knowledge are your parent’s doctor and pharmacist. Sometimes the problems of conflicting medications come from the influence of many doctors in prescribing drugs. So be sure there is one doctor who is in charge of your parent’s health in general. Have him or her review the current crop of medications, their frequency and ingredients to assure that there is no potentially dangerous interactions.
Their local pharmacist
Their local pharmacist can best help keep track of your aging parent’s medications, and can let you know if one drug will cause a gross reaction with another. Pharmacists are highly trained in all aspects of drugs and pharmaceuticals. Make sure your pharmacist knows of all medications your parent is taking. Just as having a primary physician is a smart move, so is having a primary pharmacist rather than going to several different pharmacies.
An overseer for their home medication regimen
There is a lot you can do to prevent your aging parent from accidentally taking the wrong medications or the wrong dosages, either of which can cause potential problems. If the medicine cabinet where the meds are kept is full of similar looking bottles and the only way to tell them apart is fine print on the bottles, do your part to make them unique.
While you can use some kind of system using multicolored bottles to transfer the drugs into or . use a label maker to mark each bottle in clear, the best system I have found for my father is to use a daily pill sorter. He takes pills in varying amounts four times a day. Putting his pills up once a week in seven different plastic dispensers has worked great for us. If they only take a few pills a day, one seven-day divider might work as well.
Consider an online pharmacy
My father’s insurance company insists that he receive his medications through a particular online pharmacy. And, actually, that has helped us a lot. We have his prescriptions written once a year, they are sent to the online pharmacy (where they were once mailed, they can now be ordered online by the doctor’s office, saving paper and time.), and then they are automatically renewed and sent to our home every three months.
If changes need to be made, the doctor’s office goes online and makes those changes. What the insurance company does not pay for comes right out of Dad’s checking account. We get prior notice when that will occur. Everything has gone very smoothly since that system was set up.
There are a few items such as his diabetic supplies that we still get from a local pharmacy, but otherwise everything is handled online – quick and easy for all of us!
Check the expiration dates and reorder cycles
If you are not on a system such as described above, be sure to take proper care when keeping track of medicines and their expiration dates so that you can stay ahead of reorder cycles. Check with your pharmacist to see if they can assist you in keeping reorders under control.
By staying on top of your aging parent’s medication needs you are ensuring that they take their required medications in a timely and safe fashion. By filling in that gap for your parents, you will have the peace of mind that they are getting the medications they need and only the medications they need.