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Medication Management Tips

Senior Home Care: Medication Management Tips

Medication 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.*

For 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:
  1. 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 prescribed something.
  2. 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?).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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