Optimizing drug therapy is a vital part of caring for an older adult. With the right medications and proper medication management, illnesses that were once life-threatening and required care in a hospital can now be handled as chronic diseases and managed at home, or in an assisted living or memory care setting.
Yet multiple medications can be very difficult for an older person to manage on their own, for a number of reasons:
- Multiple prescribed medications may need to be taken at different times of the day or with food or milk, and it can be confusing to keep them straight.
- Pills come in different sizes, colors, and dosages and may easily be mixed up.
- Older people may forget to take their medications, or take them more often than prescribed.
- Medications may not get refilled or picked up at the pharmacy.
- Health care providers may not have given their older patient proper information on their medications and management.
- Health care providers may not know an older patient’s complete medication regimen.
Each of these can significantly raise the risk of side effects, disrupt a medication schedule, or increase the danger of drug interactions – all of which threaten the older adult’s safety.
Ultimately, an older patient may need medication management from a caregiver.
What is medication management?
Simply put, medication management is the process of overseeing medications prescribed for a patient, ensuring they’re taken properly and accomplishing the goals the medications are prescribed for. Effectively managed medications can lead to reduced costs and improved care.
According to a 2017 study, almost one in five American adults provides unpaid caregiving assistance to an older adult, typically helping a parent, relative, or other loved one who has several physical and cognitive conditions. Managing medications is the most common task and can include everything from filling prescriptions and preparing pill boxes to giving injections.
Having a caregiver who can manage medications has a number of benefits for the older patient. Here are just six of the advantages.
Why caregivers should manage medications
1. At doctors’ visits, a caregiver can be the older patient’s best advocate. When an older adult is at a doctor’s visit, the caregiver can listen to and write down the health care provider’s instructions and ask pertinent follow-up questions. They can share with the doctor the older adult’s medical history, double-check prescriptions with the doctor, and inquire about any drug interactions or side effects. A caregiver can also talk with the doctor about the treatment plan to get a clear understanding of the treatment goals of the physician.
2. When it’s time to take medications, a caregiver can be the older patient’s eyes, hands and alarm clock. Because pills may look the same in color, shape and size, a caregiver can help the older adult discern between medications. Some older adults may have arthritis or issues with dexterity, so a caregiver can help open pharmacy bottles, pick out pills and sort them properly. Many caregivers use pill boxes to organize medications, and set alarms to help remind the older adult when it’s time to take medications.
3. A caregiver who sweats the small details can prevent big problems. If you’re a caregiver who often accompanies an older adult to doctors’ visits, keep an organized list of all medications, from the dosage to the medication strength to the reason it’s been prescribed. Medicine logs are an ideal way to track any side effects or drug interactions. Also, keep track of the contact information for each doctor who wrote the prescription. (TIP: Put all this information in one notebook or folder and bring it with you to every doctor’s visit. It will be a valuable resource for medical staff.)
4. Proper medication management by a caregiver can significantly reduce patient stress and anxiety. Everyone – especially the patient – will feel comfortable knowing medications are being distributed and taken correctly.
5. Because of improved medication compliance and reduced drug interactions (thanks to the caregiver’s vigilance), an older patient may have fewer illnesses. They may also have to spend less money on related health care costs, such as emergency room visits and hospital stays.
6. Overall quality of life can be significantly improved.When an older adult neglects to take their prescribed medications, whether because they forget or don’t think they need it, it can lead to serious consequences. Through a caregiver’s vigilant medication management, older adults get the right doses of the medicines they need, when they need it. And that’s a huge relief for both the patient and the caregiver.
Medication management, and much more, at Oak Trace.
If you’re a caregiver for your older parent, it may help to know that assisted living and memory care at Oak Trace provide assistance with medication management. This benefit can offer both you and your loved one remarkable peace of mind. In addition to medication management, a nurse and nursing assistant are on-site 24 hours a day. And, 24-hour monitoring and help with activities of daily living are just two of many other dependable services we offer.
If you’d like to let go of the constant worries over managing medications and caregiving and return to your cherished role as your parent’s son or daughter, we invite you to contact us any time at Oak Trace. Simply fill out the form on this page or call us at 630.769.6100 and we’ll be in touch.