Safely managing medication can be a struggle for people of all ages, but is often especially difficult for older adults. Many times problems arise because seniors are more likely to take multiple medications each day. In fact, 41% take five daily medications. As the number of medicines they are juggling increases, so does the risk for mistakes.
Five Medication Safety Challenges Older Adults Experience
Some of the more common problems older adults experience trying to safely manage medications include:
- Wrong Dosage: When you or a senior you love take several different types of medication each day, keeping the dosage of each one right can be more difficult. It is easy to end up taking too much of one while neglecting to take another one completely.
- Getting the Time Wrong: Some prescription medications for chronic health conditions are especially time-sensitive. Taking each dose at the right time every time is vital. Older adults sometimes skip a dose or take dosages too close together. Both can have serious health consequences, especially if it happens often.
- Modifying the Format: Another common mistake people make is changing the format of a pill. Seniors who have health conditions that make swallowing difficult are more likely to cut up or smash a pill before taking it. Because medications often have a time release component, changing the format can be dangerous. Always check with the pharmacist before modifying the format of a medication.
- Adverse Reactions: As we age, our bodies metabolize medications differently. It generally means older adults require smaller dosages of a medicine. Older adults must also be mindful of interactions that occur between medications. It helps to always fill prescriptions at the same pharmacy where they likely have systems in place to identify potential interactions.
Technology to the Rescue
Today’s seniors have advantages previous generations didn’t. That is, a variety of tech products designed to help older adults safely manage multiple medications.
From systems that flash a light at dosage time to those that text a family member if a dosage is missed, here are a few products older adults in greater Seattle might want to explore:
- Philips Lifeline Medication Dispensing Service: With this comprehensive system, all you need to do is load the single doses in to the machine. The service will dispense the medication at the right time and sound an alert to remind the user to take it.
- Med Minder: There are several different variations of the Med Minder system with each offering different features. From the simplest of systems that are unlocked pill boxes to a more sophisticated version that unlocks only the proper dosage at the right time, the Med Minder products make it easier and safer to manage medications at home.
- Tab Safe: Another product that offers a variety of features is Tab Safe. It can drop the right dosage in to a cup for the user to take and make as many as three phone calls if a dosage is missed.
According to the Institute of Medicine, medication mistakes and side effects send 770,000 people to the emergency department of a hospital each year. Having a system in place to help you or a senior loved one take the prescribed dosage and at the right time is the key to staying safe.