A senior man examining a bottle of medication

Why Caregivers Should Be Managing Medication for Seniors

Why Caregivers Should Handle Medication Management

From pills and liquids to creams and sprays, many older adults over the age of 65 take an array of daily medications and supplements. In fact, this population of older adults consumes an average of five drugs each day – more prescriptions than any other age group. 

Medication management for seniors is a precise job that requires strict schedules, organization, concentration and in-depth knowledge. This has been an extremely important job in nursing homes for years. Managing medications for seniors involves juggling multiple pills of various sizes, shapes and colors. It also requires remembering to dispense  the proper medication at the correct time and recognizing adverse reactions and symptoms.

A variety of packaged pills

Understandably, this can be an overwhelming and stressful responsibility for older adults. That’s why they should consider handing medication management responsibilities over to a caregiver or the skilled nursing staff of a senior living community. 

What is medication management?

Some chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis require a complex medication regimen. It’s not uncommon for the elderly to forget to take their medications at the right time. Or they might ignore taking them all together because they feel they’re expensive, bothersome or not working.

Medication management for seniors helps ensure instructions and treatment plans are followed closely. Doctors, pharmacists, caregivers and nurses all help play a role in positive health outcomes by:

  • Reviewing medications for possible side effects
  • Regularly assessing the senior patient
  • Providing instructions and educating the senior
  • Monitoring medication safety and efficacy
  • Documenting all prescriptions
  • Limiting chances for medication abuse

A senior woman examining a prescribed bottle of pills

Dangers of improper medication management

Seniors frequently require multiple medications to treat chronic diseases and other health conditions. If they don’t understand drug interactions and side effects, or fail to follow dosage instructions and storage closely, there can be severe negative consequences. 

Many medications look similar in size and shape, and taking the wrong combination or dose can result in a trip to the emergency room. Side effects that can be caused by medication include: 

  • Fainting, dizziness or blackouts
  • Grogginess, fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Depression

An adult child or nurse can typically identify adverse reactions to medicine more quickly than an older adult. This is why caregiver medication management can be safer and more effective alternative. Caregivers can better familiarize themselves with:

  1. Allergic reactions and what risks are associated with each medication.
  2. Over-the-counter medications that should be avoided when taking certain prescriptions
  3. Proper medication storage to avoid moisture and heat
  4. Interactions with food and beverages and how they could render the medication ineffective
  5. Dosage instructions, including what to do about missed doses
  6. Which medicines should be taken with food, water, or on an empty stomach

An elderly woman and her caregiver looking at something on a phone

Benefits of medication management in a senior living community

Older adults who live in senior living communities benefit from having dedicated medication assistance, monitoring and administration services built into their health care continuum. This means a professional nursing staff will know the ins and outs of every prescription and over-the-counter medicine residents are taking:

  • Name of medication (including generic), its strength and dosage
  • Name and contact information of the prescribing doctor
  • Medical history of the senior patient (previous surgeries, immunizations, family history and allergies)
  • Purpose of the medication (thyroid, dementia, blood pressure, pain, blood thinner, etc.)
  • Possible side effects and what to watch out for.
  • Social changes such as sleep patterns and special diets
  • Which reactions and symptoms to report to a doctor.
  • Any special instructions, refill information or expiration dates

An elderly man and his caregiver reading a pill bottle

Medication management for caregivers 

When it comes to protecting elderly loved ones, caregivers are often the first line of defense, and this responsibility can be challenging. Caregiver medication management requires juggling multiple prescriptions and ensuring they’re filled, separated and properly taken. Caregivers also need to be well informed and educated about the medicines they’re managing. Caregivers often do this while balancing the wishes of their loved ones, who might not be quite ready to give up that sense of independence.

Some best practices for medication management for caregivers include: 

  1. Create daily habits around when medications need to be taken. Each day, they should be administered at the same time. Knowing Mom takes her blood pressure medicine after the nightly news can help avoid missing a dose or duplicating a pill.
  2. Keep medications stored safely and out of reach from children and pets. Don’t leave pill bottles unattended.
  3. Check expiration dates for both prescriptions and over-the-counter products. Some medications can lose their efficacy after long periods of time.
  4. Dispose of out-of-date medications. This can often be done at a local pharmacy or fire station.
  5. Be aware of behavioral changes that might be caused by a new medication or infection. As a caregiver, you’ll know if something seems out of the ordinary with Mom or Dad. If your gut tells you your loved one isn’t acting quite right, bring that to their care provider’s attention.   
  6. Make sure your loved one can obtain prescriptions via delivery or in-person at the pharmacy. Many pharmacies will allow a caregiver to pick up meds. Keep a list of prescribed medications on hand so you can double-check at pickup.
  7. Be cognizant of any signs of deterioration. For example, if Mom or Dad  shows signs of difficulty swallowing, some of their medications may need to change to a liquid form or another option.

An elderly man talking to his caregiver about his medication

Managing medications for seniors: Questions to ask

If you’re wondering if your parents or loved ones need help managing medications, there are some questions you can ask to help inform your decision.

  • Are they older than 75?
  • Do they take multiple medications?
  • Do they have two or more medical conditions?
  • Do they have vision or hearing issues?
  • Do they have muscle weakness or trouble with mobility?
  • Do they have memory problems?
  • Can they no longer drive or make or it to a pharmacy safely?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these, your loved one likely needs help from a caregiver or nurse to ensure proper and safe medication management.

Premier Life Care communities like The Buckingham in Houston offer a full continuum of health services, including assisted living and memory care. To learn more about the types of medication assistance, monitoring and administration we can provide, get in touch with us today.