Living independently is important to all of us, but especially to seniors. As they age, seniors face unique challenges, such as losing a spouse and elderly friends, changes in physical and mental abilities, and other general lifestyle changes that often occur during the golden years. Living in a comfortable and familiar environment becomes paramount to a senior’s happiness and feelings of well-being. As the relative, friend or caregiver of a senior, it is important for you to help seniors achieve this goal.
One area that deserves special attention with seniors is managing medications they take. Chances are the number of medications they are required to take increases with age, as seniors are often prone to medical conditions that are regulated by medicine. Taking the medications is important. However, it is equally important for seniors and their family caregivers to understand what medicine the senior takes, to become knowledgeable about side effects, and also to determine whether there appear to be adverse effects of taking different types of medications at the same time. Mismanagement of medications can be detrimental and sometimes even life threatening.
Medication mismanagement can be minimal or extreme. Forgetting to take medication can cause obvious problems but may not be of great concern if it does not happen often. But, combining some types of medicines can cause critical adverse reactions and if a senior is required to take painkillers, addiction can raise its ugly head. For these reasons it becomes essential to keep seniors well informed of the hazards mismanagement of medications can cause and to keep the doctor informed all of medications the senior is taking and of any apparent adverse side effects.
Signs of medication misuse include dizziness, nausea, confusion and memory issues, increased falls, troubled sleeping patterns, incontinence, and even hallucinations. Malnutrition can also indicate improper medicine administration, because confused seniors may not eat properly. Seniors who become addicted to painkillers may become secretive regarding their use of those drugs and seek prescriptions from various doctors and pharmacies. In extreme but not uncommon cases, some medications – when mixed – can cause death.
Seniors who have trouble successfully managing medications are not alone. In fact, research indicates that approximately 40% of people entering nursing homes do so because they are unable to self-medicate in their homes. In addition, 30% of all hospital admissions for people over age 65 are directly attributable to missed doses or overdoses of medication.
With these statistics in mind, the medical community has offered advice and other solutions to help seniors manage medications in their own homes. When family members visit, it is an opportunity to remind seniors to take their meds at designated times. If possible, seniors are encouraged to keep logs of the times they take their medications in order to keep track, determine the time of their next dose and to prevent over-dosage. Home health care companies, such as Comfort Keepers®, offer solid solutions in the form of medication reminder devices. The Safety Choice® TabSafe Medication System by Comfort Keepers stores medication and dispenses the proper dosage into a locked drawer at the bottom of the unit. If a dose is missed, the unit places a call to designated Comfort Keeper or other contact persons who can then call to remind loved ones to take their medicine. If no one is reached, a call to the monitoring station prompts a call or visit to the client or caregiver.
The use of one or all of these strategies can assist seniors who take multiple medications. It is also essential to make sure their doctors know of all medications seniors take so they can coordinate care and prescribe additional medicine, when needed, that will not cause adverse effects when combined with other meds. Others should keep a close eye on seniors who take medications to ensure seniors are properly administering their own meds.
Research shows seniors who live alone are more likely to inadvertently misuse medications. Knowledge is power, but control is key regarding medication management. The reward in helping seniors properly manage their medication is helping them achieve their ultimate goal of living healthy, independent lives in their own homes for as long as possible.
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