Most seniors have multiple prescribed medications and it can be all too easy to lose track of dosages, mix-up pills, or forget to take them. In fact, one study found that out of 99,628 adverse drug event-related hospitalizations among individuals 65 years and older, two-thirds were due to unintentional overdoses.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can lower your risk of drug-related complications and follow your medication treatment plan successfully. Keep the following tips in mind for safe medication use – and always consult with your healthcare team if you have any questions about your medications.
Create a “medication station” where the containers for your prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements are all in the same place. If your medicines are all stored in different locations, it’s easier to fall out of your treatment regimen. Organizing your medication this way is also a great opportunity to declutter and get rid of expired pills or supplements you’re no longer taking.
Putting your “medication station” in the proper environment will keep the medicine fresh and effective before the expiration date. The majority of medications require a cool dry storage space, so the bathroom (which gets warm and humid every time you shower or bathe) should be avoided. It also helps if you put your medicine in a place where you’ll see them every day, so you’re less likely to forget your dosing schedule.
‘Spoonfuls of Sugar’
There are many ways you can simplify your medication regimen to make it easier to remember and more convenient to follow:
- Request large-text labels and inserts for your medication at the pharmacy so they’re easier to read
- If you have arthritis, some pharmacies can substitute easy-open blister packs for pill bottles by request
- For long-term prescriptions, ask your doctor to prescribe a 90 day supply through a mail-order pharmacy so you don’t have to refill as frequently
- Set an alarm, leave yourself a note, mark a calendar, or prepare a reminder system that works for you to get into the habit of taking your medicine at the same time every day
- Use a pillbox to pre-sort your medications for the week. You can also purchase an automatic dispenser, which can be programmed to dispense your medications for you at a set time every day. Some will even notify you or your caregiver if meds were missed that day.
Keep a List
Create a list of all the medications and supplements you take. Note the name of each medication, dosing information, reason for use, prescribing doctor, notable side effects, and any cautions stated on the package. If they haven’t already asked you, share this list with all the physicians who are part of your care team. This will help them avoid prescribing treatments that are contraindicated by your current medications. It’s also recommended that you keep this list with your other important documents in case of an emergency.
Don’t forget that medications are meant to help you manage your health – but they do not work if you don’t use them properly. If you have trouble taking your medication as prescribed (or care for an older adult who has difficulties), your healthcare provider is likely to have easy-to-follow solutions, and can address any concerns you may have about side effects, food-drug interactions, or missed doses.