Medication Safety for Older Adults

An older woman reviews the instructions on a prescription bottle to ensure medication safety for older adults.

As a person’s age increases, it may seem as though the number of medications that need to be taken also increases. Research backs this up, showing that an astounding 87% of older adults take at least one prescription medication, while 36% take five or even more. On top of that, 38% of older adults are taking OTC medications regularly as well. Mismanaging medications can have dire effects, whether from taking too little or too much or a combination of meds that interact negatively. As a result, taking steps to ensure medication safety for older adults is crucial.

What Are Some of the Top Causes of Medication Mismanagement?

There are several common reasons why people may not take their medications correctly, including:

  • No follow-up from the prescribing doctor. Often, a new medication will be prescribed in a low starter dose, after which the doctor needs to follow up and modify the dosage as needed. If the doctor fails to follow up, the person may continue taking what could very well be an inappropriate dose of the medication.
    * How family caregivers can help: Proactively follow up with the doctor and report on how a new medication works. Make note of any side effects to see if the dosage needs to be adjusted.
  • Negative side effects. If the negatives outweigh the positives, a person may simply discontinue taking the medication. However, medication should never be stopped or changed without the doctor’s approval.
    * How family caregivers help: Tell the doctor immediately about any side effects a person is experiencing so they can evaluate whether (and how) the medication should be changed or discontinued.
  • Medication adherence challenges. Each medication has its own guidelines, such as taking it at a specific time each day, taking it with food or water or on an empty stomach, etc. It’s easy to get these directions confused when taking a variety of different meds.
    * How family caregivers can help: Placing the meds in a pill organizer can help to ensure they are taken at the correct time. You can also create a simple chart to keep with the organizer that indicates how each medicine should be taken.
  • Cost. A person may struggle with paying the sometimes exorbitant cost for medications and, as a result, decide not to take them or cut the dosage in half to save money. Both of these actions are extremely dangerous and should never be undertaken without the doctor’s guidance.
    * How family caregivers can help: Talk to the doctor to see if a generic version of the medication is available or if there are any other ways to reduce the cost.

What About Contraindications Among Medications?

There may be multiple doctors prescribing medications for different health conditions. It’s crucial that every member of a person’s healthcare team knows about all of the medications they are taking. This enables them to check for contraindications.

The pharmacist can also advise on whether all of a person’s meds can be taken safely together. This drug interaction checker can provide a quick online assessment. Just enter the meds the person is taking and share any concerns that are displayed with the prescribing doctor(s).

How Can Home Care Help?

The services of a referred care provider from American, Advocate, or Whitsyms In-Home Care can help improve medication safety for older adults. With services such as medication reminders, monitoring for any side effects and reporting them immediately, offering transportation to medical appointments, and much more, families can find peace of mind knowing a loved one is taking medications as prescribed.

Contact us to learn more about how a referred care provider can help older loved ones benefit from their medications and avoid complications. Click the link to the location nearest you below:

State of Florida License and Registration Numbers: 30211518, 30211651, 30211295, 30211390, 30210978, 30211293, 30211382, 30211504, 30211733, 30211535, 30211531, 30211710, 30211709, 30211045, 5661