A Caretaker’s Guide to Managing Seniors’ Medicines
Medication management is important for the elderly
Physical changes brought on by ageing can have an impact on how the body processes medication. Unsuitable medications have the potential to cause adverse reactions and other complications in worst-case scenarios. As a result, it’s critical for you to keep track of the medications the seniors in your care are consuming.
We’ve asked Gina Koay Wan Lee, Director, and Pharmacist at City Wellness Pharmacy, for her expert input in hopes that we can offer some advice and pointers on carers’ roles in managing medications for the elderly.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS CARETAKERS SHOULD TAKE NOTE OF WHEN IT COMES TO MANAGING THEIR ELDERLY’S MEDICATIONS?
Gina Koay: When you are caring for elderly patients, it’s important to keep an eye on the type of medications taken, to make sure they take the medications at the right dose and right time. The three most important elements when it comes to med ication management are tracking the signs of complications, keeping track of the outcome of the therapy, and identifying potentially harmful medications which may cause side effects.
COULD YOU SHARE SOME TIPS ON HOW CARETAKERS OR THE ELDERLY COULD EFFECTIVELY STORE MEDICATIONS?
Gina: Doctors prescribe medications to the elderly due to certain illnesses. Pharmacists then dispense the medications. When the medications are brought back to the house, it’s important to safely keep their medications. Here are some tips for storing the medications:
You need to store it in a cool, dry place, such as a dresser drawer or a kitchen cabinet away from the stove, sink, or hot appliances. You may use a storage box to keep the medications in a proper space. If possible, remember to keep the medicine in its original container to avoid exposure to sunlight and moisture.
YOU NEED TO STORE IT IN A COOL, DRY PLACE, SUCH AS A DRESSER DRAWER OR A KITCHEN CABINET AWAY FROM THE STOVE, SINK, OR HOT APPLIANCES. YOU MAY USE A STORAGE BOX TO KEEP THE MEDICATIONS IN A PROPER SPACE.
HOW CAN THE CARETAKER AND THE ELDERLY BETTER UNDERSTAND POTENTIAL MEDICATION INTERACTIONS AND SIDE EFFECTS?
Gina: It’s important to know what each medicine is for and about possible side effects. Caretakers need to work with pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to keep track of the medications taken by the elderly.
Discuss the care plan with the pharmacists and healthcare professionals on a regular basis. As caretakers of the elderly, learn as much as you can. Bring a list of all prescribed medicines, and those bought without a prescription, including supplements and herbs, to each healthcare provider’s appointment. Check for any potential medical interactions, bring the pill bottles with you to show the provider. Talk with the pharmacist to make sure the medicines are still needed. Find out what condition each medicine treats. Be sure you know what the dosage is and when it should be taken. Ask which medicines need to be given every day and which are used only for certain symptoms or problems. Ask about the potential side effects. Write down any new instructions and make sure both: you and the senior under your care understand the instructions.
WHAT SHOULD CARETAKERS DO WHEN THEY NOTICE HEALTH CHANGES IN THEIR ELDERLY UPON STARTING NEW MEDICATION?
Gina: It’s important to set a goal for the treatment of the health condition. Once the elderly is being prescribed a new medication, caretakers should observe and pay attention to the health changes. For example, if the elderly person has high cholesterol issues, the doctor may prescribe a new medication to lower cholesterol. The monitoring of cholesterol levels should be done once every 3 months. Notice for any side effects while the senior is taking the medications, such as bloating, or muscle pain. Report the health changes to the pharmacist and doctor in charge. Doctors may change to a new regime if the medication is not suitable for the elderly.
MEDICATION CANNOT WORK AS INTENDED IF IT’S NOT TAKEN AS PRESCRIBED. CONSISTENCY AND TAKING PILLS ACCORDING TO GUIDANCE PLAY A KEY ROLE IN ANY TREATMENT.
WHAT SHOULD A COMPREHENSIVE MEDICATION LIST INCLUDE?
Gina: You may use the following questions to build a comprehensive medication list:
- What is the name of this medication?
- What is the strength of the medication?
- Why do you take this medication? [To manage what condition or symptom?]
- How much of this medication do you take? [number of pills, liquid amount, etc.]
- When do you take this medication?
- How do you take this medication? [orally, through injection, sublingually, etc.]
- What are other special instructions for taking this medication?
[Example, with food, with water, do not take with specific substances/foods, etc.]
- What does this medication look like?
- What are the starting and ending/stopping dates for this medication?
- Who prescribed this medication?
- Where do you get this prescription filled?
ARE MEDICATION REMINDERS AND TRACKING SYSTEMS EFFECTIVE?
Gina: There are various pill reminder apps and medication trackers in the market. The big question here is how do we know if these are effective in helping the patients adhere to the medication prescribed by the doctors?
Pill dispensers are cheap, but you still need to remember to take the medication. On the other hand, smartphone alarms are free, but most people end up ignoring these alarms as constant notifications can get annoying after a while.
There’s one type of smart sensing device, which is the only tracker for a pill blister that comes with built-in sensors. It can sense when you pop a pill off the blister and notifies you only when you miss a pill. This means, if you take the pill, you don’t get the daily annoying reminders. Moreover, there’s no manual input needed to keep track of your pill usage.
Medication cannot work as intended if it’s not taken as prescribed. Consistency and taking pills according to guidance play a key role in any treatment. Medication adherence in chronic health conditions is definitely important to ensure the health condition is well controlled.
HOW CAN CARETAKERS HELP SENIORS WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR DEMENTIA WITH THEIR MEDICATION?
Gina: People with Alzheimer’s disease may take medicines to treat the disease itself, mood or behaviour changes, and other medical conditions. Caregivers can ensure that medicines are taken safely and correctly. Here are some tips
to help you manage medications for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ask the doctor or pharmacist:
- Why is this medicine being used?
- What positive effects should I look for, and when?
- How long will the person need to take it?
- What is the dose and how often should he or she take the medicine?
- What if the person misses a dose?
- What are the side effects, and what can I do about them?
- Can this medicine cause problems if taken with other medicines?
HOW CAN CARETAKERS PLAN AHEAD FOR MEDICATION REFILLS?
Gina: As caretakers, it is important to keep track of how many refills are left for each medicine. Make sure you know when you need to see the pharmacist next for a refill.
Plan ahead. Do contact the pharmacy for refills at least a week before they are due to run out. Ask your doctor which medicines you can get so that it’ll last as long as 90 days supply.
Managing medications for the seniors under your care is a crucial role to play. Working hand-in-hand with community pharmacists and doctors will enable you to carry out your role effectively whilst ensuring the well-being of the elderly in your care.