Your mom just called at an odd time of the day and she sounds a bit “off”. The words, “How are you?” quickly fall from your mouth as you begin to feel panicked. Running through a mental checklist of what could be wrong, you start to slowly work through some questions. Finally you ask the right question, “Did you take your medicine today?” The response on the other end of the line is hesitant at best and forgetful at worst.
Importance of Medication Management
Proper medication management is critical to the wellbeing of the elderly. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 55% of older people are non-compliant with their medications. Non-compliance simply means not taking medications as prescribed. A dose may have been skipped to scrimp on medication expenses, simply forgotten due to a failing memory, or intentionally regarded as unnecessary and never filled.
Changing medication times or mixing medications when contraindicated is another example. Harmful interactions can result such as dizziness leading to a harmful fall. Sometimes taking too many pills at one time can cause stomach upset and digestive issues. Overdosing is another example. Thousands of deaths occur each year as a result of unintentional pain medication overdoses.
Each year 200,000 elderly people are hospitalized as a result of medication mismanagement. One example is when diuretics are prescribed and not taken. A real risk of developing congestive heart failure occurs, ending up with a trip to the emergency room and subsequent hospitalization.
Some elderly people are more likely to mismanage their medications than others. The following is a list of risk factors to be aware of.
- Living alone or with other at risk elders
- Visual acuity problem/low vision
- Taking more than three medications
- Memory problems caused by a variety of issues
- Seeing more than one doctor
- Using multiple pharmacies to fill prescriptions
Other factors that impact how medication is internally processed are alcohol usage, illegal drug usage, the use of nutritional supplements/herbals and the use of over-the-counter medications. All of these could potentially cause unanticipated interactions and potentially dangerous health complications.
How to Help
We never want to see our loved ones suffer, especially from a preventable medical disaster. Often, we can reduce the possibility of illness or injury resulting from medication mismanagement by exercising some common sense. Sometimes this can be as easy as asking for large print medication labels from the pharmacy. Or, the use a pill organizer as a reminder to take medications and to show when pills is forgotten.
Another option is to look at enrolling in a Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). These programs are designed to help elders manage their medications and assist with safe administration. To learn more about Beacon of Life services or to refer a participant to our facility, click here to contact us or call 732-592-3400.