NOT Minding Your Meds:
#1 Mr. J’s blood pressure was 210/160 when he was at the doctor’s office, having come in due to his dizziness, lack of energy and poor appetite. As the conversation ensued, it was determined that Mr. J had not been taking his blood pressure medications. In fact, he was having a hard time remembering to take any of his medications; and he had a long list.
#2 I used to set up medication trays six weeks in advance for both of my parents. Each tray was labeled with the name and dates for the week it included. Although this helped each one take their pills throughout the day as prescribed by the doctor; over time, Mom was accidentally, and in no particular order, leaving some pills in a few of the daily containers. Since she had Parkinson’s it was very important that she was consistently taking her medications. This, along with other issues, paved the way for a change from independent living to assisted living.
#3 Mrs. S, my friend’s Grandmother, routinely took her medications’ without a hitch.’ She liked to get all the required pills from the various prescription bottles (shake out a pill from each bottle into her hand and take them all at once (a big handful). Then things changed. Perhaps she didn’t see as well as she used to, or there was another reason… but she inadvertently began doubling up on some of the pills, e.g., 2 blood pressure pills instead of 1; 3 pills for diabetes, instead of 2. You get the picture. This type of situation is very concerning due to the possible adverse drug reactions that can occur.
Statistically speaking, it’s been estimated (according to the FDA), that there are more than 2 million adverse drug reactions occurring each year; and that they are the 4th leading cause of death on an annual basis. Additionally, in a New England Journal of Medicine article dated a few years ago, costs associated with not taking medications as prescribed by the doctor range as high as a billion dollars annually in hospital costs.
The challenges include: getting the prescription filled, sorting the medications and scheduling them as directed. In addition, we should know what each medication is used for. All of this may seem reasonable and easy to do, but for many it’s very difficult. In addition, what about allergies to medications? What can we do to make it easier and safer?
Some Ideas for Mending Medication Issues:
#1 Have a current list of medications. (Pre-printed from your doctor’s office, or set up your own list that includes: medication name, dosage, frequency, reason for taking. Include any medication allergies. This information should be readily available to take along for any medical appointments or if there is an emergency. (Example below from the Senior Care Organizer)
#2 Medication Trays/Boxes are a fairly simple way to start out. Perhaps just setting up medications for the day is adequate. Then as needed, move to the “meds for a week” tray.
#3 Medication Management technology has been found to be highly beneficial to those who have a difficult time remembering to take their medications on time and in the right dosage. These systems (examples below) are filled up by the caregiver or a medical professional and set up to remind the senior to take the medication. (e.g., buzzer sounds and the dosage rotates into place in the tray).
Another type of technology is the phone reminder system that can also be set up to vocally remind you to not only take your medications, but about other things such as doctor appointments.
Here are some resources to check out:
Working with the primary care doctor will also help to ensure safety with respect to the medications and possible interactions. The key is being aware of the medication routine, if it’s being followed and if not, intervening before bigger problems develop. It isn’t easy to incorporate change, but most of us, want to safely “age in place.” In order to do this, various conditions must exist, or changes/improvements must be made to our physical space; but we also need to “Mind our Meds” safely and securely.
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” James B. Conant