10 tips to support home medication management for seniors

Many people I care for are also caring for their elders. I know it can be rewarding, but challenging, personally and professionally. I worked at ManorCare assisted living for two years, and the residents taught me a lot. A long-term friend and colleague works with adult protective services. Health issues are important. Most of all:

Compassion goes a long way.  Because we’re all going to be there.

Some strategies
1. Gather all medications, vitamins, OTC meds, and supplements into one location. If they’re all stored in different locations, it’s easy to lose track of the prescribed medication, vitamins, over-the-counter medication, or supplements that are being taken.

For example, some older adults might keep certain pills in the kitchen, some on their bedside table, and others in the bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s especially important to include over-the-counter medications because they could still cause reactions when combined with prescription medications.

A good habit is to gather everything into one place.
That way, you can see exactly what is being taken, make sure similar prescriptions aren’t being prescribed for the same health condition, and know when to dispose of expired medications.

To stay organized and increase medication safety, keep all their current pill bottles and packages in a clear plastic storage bin. That ensures everything stays together. Use a separate bin for former or medicines that are only used occasionally. It’s very easy to mix everything together.

2. Make sure medication is stored properly.
In general, medication should be kept in a cool and dry place.
That means the bathroom cabinet isn’t a good place to keep meds – moisture and heat can affect drugs. Medications should also be kept safely away from children or pets. Dogs and cats will swallow pills that they find on the floor. Some of these medications may even taste good to them, making them even more dangerous.

3. Create and maintain an up-to-date medication list.
To prevent negative drug interactions, It’s essential to know exactly what medications your older adult is taking. That’s why it’s so important to always have an up-to-date list of their medications, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications.

Be sure to record:
Names of each prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, vitamins, and supplements
How often each item is taken
What dosage of each item is used
The healthcare provider who prescribed each prescription medication
The purpose of each item and/or symptoms it’s supposed to treat
Whether each item is for short-term or long-term use
This list should be given to the patient, a family member, and a caregiver.

4. Pre-sort medications for the week
Staying organized is essential to good medication management for seniors. Using a pill organizer allows you to help your older adult pre-sort their medications for the week.
The best type of pill organizer for your older adult is one with enough compartments for every dose they’ll need throughout the day.

If any pills need to be split, it may be best to do this ahead of time and include those halves in the pill organizer compartments.

5. Make it a team project. Many seniors are resistant to medication, and feel that they are being forced to take them. If it becomes an interactive activity, there is less resistance.

6. Take photographs of the actual medicine bottles, the pillbox, and each pill so you can see what it looks like.

7. Have a checklist with you that your senior also has, so they can go through and check off which ones they have taken. You can make this a daily routine with them, a.m. and p.m. it’s like being there.

8. Follow each medication time with a reward. They could eat some candy (if allowed medically), take a nap, watch a favorite show, read a novel or magazine, etc.

9. Some Hacks For Getting Someone To Take Their Medication
-Speak to their Doctor: Their PCP or NP may have a solution for you based on the patient’s individual needs. Perhaps there is a way to minimize the number of pills they must take, change certain dosages, switch to a different formula, etc.

-Use your resources: At times, I’ve had to put on my Dr. voice and call the patient, because they would not listen to their child or regular caregiver, who were there for them on a daily basis. Support groups for caregivers can also be helpful for sharing and receiving support.

-Create a calm environment: A less stressful environment may help an older adult relax enough to do something uncomfortable but necessary.

-Crush pills into food: Crushing medication into applesauce, pudding, yogurt, or other foods may make it more pleasant to consume. Please sure to ask a pharmacist before doing this, since certain pills become less effective when crushed.

-Do it together: Taking your own vitamins or medicine at the same time can make the entire experience more enjoyable, as if you two are health “buddies”.

-Set up medication management devices: If your loved one is independent, help them set up alarms, reminder, pill organizers or dispensers, daily checklists, etc.

-Remain calm: Don’t force it. If it’s not happening, try again in 10 minutes. Sometimes, they just need to breathe, calm down, and/or be in a different mind state. Don’t give up if it’s a bad day. Or a bad hour.

10. Stick to a Routine. This can do wonders for getting a senior to cooperate, especially one struggling with dementia. Does your senior know what time to go to bed, eat lunch, feed the cat, take out the trash? Eventually, a regular schedule may make it so normal there is no resistance to medication at all.

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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