There comes a time for many older adults, when taking medications becomes a new norm. This new "norm," however, can often be accompanied with confusion and/or forgetfulness regarding how and when to properly take their medications. The result of such confusion, whether attributed to a busy lifestyle or cognitive impairment, may be hazardous to one's health. In order to increase the likelihood your loved one is taking his/her medications properly and on time, you may want to consider the following suggestions...
1). Learn About Your Loved One's Medications - find out what types of medications your loved one is taking, including prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements and vitamins. Learning this information, as well as why your loved one is taking them, how long they will be taking them and potential side effects can give you a better understanding of what your loved one's medication routine looks like and can also help you keep track of its usage.
2). Create A List - compose a list of all medications as well as the dosage amount, number of refills left and the contact information of the doctor who prescribed the medication. This information can prove pertinent throughout your caregiving journey when requesting refills, consulting with other healthcare professionals and/or having to relay pertinent information in an emergency.
3). Review The List With The Medical Team - depending on your level of involvement and your understanding of the medications prescribed, you may find it helpful to regularly review your loved one's medication list with his/her medical team. This is especially important if your loved one has various medical professionals involved in his/her care. Essentially, you want to ensure the list's accuracy, necessity and potentially remove any drugs that are no longer needed or have a potential of harmful interaction.
4). Explore Available Options - there are many options available to individuals who have difficulty accessing or taking their medications. For example, easy-open bottles or large print labels are generally available through pharmacies for individuals who have trouble opening the bottles or reading the labels. For individuals who forget to take their medications on time, some families find it helpful to set an alarm, make calls to remind their loved one to take the medication, or purchase a medication dispenser - a device that allows individuals to organize medication and in some cases, to set a time for automatic dispension. Lastly, for individuals with severe cognitive impairement the aformentioned recommendations may not be effective. Generally, the best way to assure a loved one with severe cognitive impairment is taking his/her medications is to have someone physically present.
Do you have other recommendations you would like to share about what has worked for you and your family? Please share them below.
Christine M. Valentin is a licensed clinical social worker licensed in NJ and NY. She specializes in anxiety, depression and counseling family members who are concerned about an older adult, spouse or significant other. She has offices in Downtown Summit and Wall Street, NYC. For more information, visit www.familycaregiversocialworker.com or www.christinemvalentin.com