How to Help Your Senior Manage Medication. Senior Medication Challenges. Mary Alexander: Hi, I am Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care. Today, I am talking about how to help your parents manage their medications. Right now, we're going to discuss some medication challenges.
According to a survey released in December of 2009 by Medco Health Solutions, more than half of senior surveyed said that they take at least five different prescription drugs regularly, and about 25% took between 10 and 19 pills each day. The challenge of managing multiple medications is clear. Nearly three in five of those surveyed admitted that they forgot to take their medications. Further more, the more drugs they used, the more likely they did not remember to take them. Among those using five or more medications, 63% said they forgot doses compared to 51% among people who took fewer medications. Remembering to take their meds is one problem, but another task that is often a challenge for seniors is getting their medications filled on time.
If your parent is taking multiple medications, or has frequent changes in prescriptions or dosages, it can lead to confusion and may cause them to mistaking certain medications.
Getting refills can also be a challenge if your parent is hard of hearing. If his or her pharmacy uses automatic voice prompts, it may be difficult for them to understand, so they might just avoid calling altogether. Getting timely refills can also be a problem if your senior loved one no longer drives. Many seniors don't want to be a burden to their family and friends, so they may not ask for help to run an errand to the pharmacy in order to get their refills.
Three other medication challenges are Adverse Effects, Side Effects and Drug Interactions. Each of these terms has a different meaning. So let's discuss them one by one. An Adverse Effect is a harmful or unwanted result caused by medication. Some adverse effects are temporary, and only occur when starting, increasing, or discontinuing a treatment. Examples of adverse effects include nausea, constipation or sleepiness. The problem with adverse effects is if your senior decides the symptom is too troublesome, they may stop taking their medication regimen all together, which could result in another more serious medical problem.
A Side Effect is an unintended result of a medication. Some side effects can be beneficial, such as weight loss, but normally when doctors talk about side effects, they usually mean adverse effects, which we just discussed.
The third term, Drug Interaction means the medication may interact adversely with another medication, food, or beverage. Alcohol is commonly listed as an item to avoid while taking certain medications, but other items such as dairy products, and eating grape fruit juice can cause harmful interactions.
In all cases, you should carefully read the material that comes with each and every prescription, to help your parents avoid interactions and understand what is a normal or expected side effect.
Another challenge senior's face is a fear of asking questions. Many don't want to appear silly or uneducated. So instead of asking the doctor or pharmacist for clarification, or enquiring if a reaction is normal or not, they just stay silent. Not having these conversations could result in higher risk of treatment failure, or more serious adverse effects.
The Medco survey that I mentioned earlier also found that multiple medication use is also taking its toll on the financial health of America's seniors. The ability to afford their drugs is the top concern among 40% of those taking five or more prescriptions daily, followed by their worry over side effects and interactions.
The high cost can lead to two additional challenges. First, is not taking medications at the required dose, or at all, because they are deemed too expensive. Again, this can lead to treatment failure. The second challenge is that to avoid cost, many insurance companies require doctors to prescribe the generic brand of a drug. Well, generics are often equivalent at a much lower cost. The chemistry of the drug may not have the same effect as the regular brand and your parent might not get the same medicinal benefits they once had. Other medication challenges include chewing non-chewables.
Some medication should never be chewed or crushed. Doing so, may change how they're absorbed in the body. Some medications shouldn't be cut, because they're coated to be long acting, or to protect the stomach. You should also make sure, if your parent has a liquid medication that they use the cup or spoon that came with it, in order to avoid dosing errors. Now that we've talked about some of the challenges that your senior loved one can face when dealing with their medications, in the next video, we'll offer solutions so that you can help them manage this aspect of their healthcare.