Senior Home Care: Medication Management Tips
errors among older people cost about $177 billion each year. If such
errors were counted as a disease, they would be the fifth leading cause
of death for Americans 65 and older. A study found that medication
errors occurred in about 20-30% of senior home care cases.*
the individual senior, medication management issues can affect health
and safety in many ways. Improperly taking medications can increase
side effects and risk of falls and decrease the effectiveness of the
medication in managing symptoms/conditions.
Many older adults
take multiple medications, making medication management more complex
(most older senior home care patients take five or more medications).
Each medication may have different instructions and timing, which can
add to the chance for mismanagement. Errors are particularly likely
after a hospitalization or major change to the routine, which can then
lead to problems that land the person back in the hospital (for help
after a hospital stay or rehabilitation, check out our
Various studies have confirmed the challenges of medication
management, but they have also shown how some simple but important steps
and tools can help.
Here are some key tips for ensuring proper senior home care medication management:
- Make sure you understand medications and instructions clearly from the start.
Take advantage of the opportunity to ask your doctor or pharmacist
questions. If you are with a loved one, review the medication and
instructions and ask questions to confirm understanding. Always make
sure your medical providers know all the medications (including
over-the-counter and herbal) you take. Understand why you are being
- Ask providers for help simplifying the regimen. If
you take multiple medications, have your doctor or a consultant
pharmacist do a medication review. This can catch any overlap or
unnecessary medications, but you can also ask if there are different
ways you might take the medications to simplify (is there a medication
you can take less often, can you change times to make medications
coincide with each other?).
- Never take old medications or those prescribed to someone else.
Don't self-diagnose and start taking that old dose of antibiotics you
have on hand, or decide to give your husband's allergy medicine a try.
- Engage tools and resources for organization and reminders.
If you need suggestions, we can help you determine what resources might
work best. Our medication management R.N., BethAnne Snavely (check her
out on our home care team page),
assists a number of clients with keeping their medications refilled and
properly allocated in a pill box. Some clients need additional help
with specific reminders, whether that be through an automated system or
our senior home caregivers.
- Give feedback to your medical providers. If you
notice a new symptom or possible side effect, make a note of the
circumstances and contact your provider. This information is vital to
help your providers do the best job for you. Only you know what is
happening in your home and how you are feeling. Because many seniors
see multiple providers, you or your caregiver should also keep good
records to provide current and historical information. Know your
current medications (and dosages), allergies, and medications that cause
side effects or have proven ineffective for you.
Studies have shown that a multi-pronged medication management program
is best for senior home care safety. By simplifying, having clear
instructions and support you can greatly reduce the likelihood of
errors. Different circumstances will call for different tools and
resources, but fortunately there are a lot of options.
This issue is absolutely vital to a senior's continued well-being and
safety at home. Confusion and falls are two common medication
mismanagement effects, which can lead to an elder needing increased
care. Proper medication management is one of the more essential
components to senior home safety and may determine an elder's ability to
remain at home. Prevention and planning are key!