On the Navesink Blog

Understanding Safe Medication Management for Seniors

Senior Living | 04/26/21


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Filling the pillbox is an activity common to most seniors. After all, 80% of seniors take at least two prescription medications regularly, and 36% take at least five prescription drugs. Along with those medications, many seniors also take vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs.

Not only does that make for a packed medicine cabinet, but seniors managing multiple medications may also be prone to dangerous drug interactions, over-medicating, and even serious injury if a medication’s side effect is drowsiness or confusion. In short, medication safety for older adults is a growing issue.

Taking multiple medications can also be expensive, and it’s not unusual for seniors to skip doses or forgo filling prescriptions to save money, which can have dire health consequences. Even more concerning, managing multiple medications can be overwhelming, especially for those with advancing memory issues.

The 10 tips below explain how to properly manage prescriptions and other medications. The tips can also help adult children ensure medication safety for the older adults in their life.

10 Medication Management Tips to Know and Use

  1. Make a complete list of your prescriptions and any other pills you take regularly. Be thorough. Every pill, even a vitamin, matters.
  2. Sit down with your doctor and review the list to look for potential dangers like drug interactions.
  3. Confirm how to properly take medications. Ask about the “take with or without food” rules and “morning vs. evening” recommendations. Also ask about possible food interactions. For example, grapefruit juice affects cholesterol drugs. Milk affects antibiotics.
  4. Understand the side effects and discuss ways to avoid and/or control them. Taking certain medications before bed can help avoid effects like dizziness, for example.
  5. Avoid self-prescribing and selective dosing. Adult children should discuss this with senior parents and a primary care doctor. It’s tempting to take more or less than recommended dosage to “feel better” or to skip doses if there are side effects like sleepiness.
  6. Ensure every doctor is aware of every medication. Don’t assume one physician is up to date on medication another physician prescribes. Bring your medication list with you to every appointment.
  7. Ensure every doctor is aware of changes in health since some changes can affect how your body responds to a drug. That includes illnesses, weight gain or loss, or other conditions.
  8. Understand what a drug is and why it was prescribed. You have a right to ask questions about any medication given to you, even if it’s prescribed for a temporary condition like a sinus infection. If possible, seniors should have an advocate (another pair of ears) go to appointments with them.
  9. Pick one pharmacy to fill all medications. Today’s pharmacies use computer records that alert pharmacists about potential drug interactions anytime a new drug is prescribed for you. Additionally, a pharmacist you see regularly is more informed of your conditions and can better answer your medication questions.
  10. Take advantage of medication organizer aids. Not only can today’s pillboxes
    help you organize morning, mid-day and evening pills, but many also come with
    reminder alarms. There are also phone apps that can be set to remind you it’s
    time for a pill. For the ultimate in organization, check out electronic pill
    dispensers. Some even allow family members to use their smartphone to prompt
    the dispenser to open and release pills to a loved one at the proper times. Many
    pharmacies also offer prepackaged pill packs to keep pill-taking on track, and the
    service is often covered by Medicare plans.

The team at The Atrium at Navesink Harbor is here to help.

Among the wonderful benefits of living at The Atrium at Navesink Harbor is our on-site healthcare services and our Resident Health Center staffed with registered nurses. In addition to providing excellent health services for our residents, our medical team can offer advice and guidance about safe medication management and even arrange for extra assistance with taking medications.

It’s also comforting to know that The Atrium at Navesink Harbor is a Life Plan Community. That means you’ll always have the best care available should you need more assistance as you age.

To learn more about us, simply complete the request form, and one of our sales counselors will be in touch to answer questions and arrange a tour.