Healthcare professionals sometimes skimp on the education they give to seniors about medications, thinking that the information will not be remembered or understood. However, there are many reasons why seniors are at higher risk for medication complications than other segments of the population and why this type of education is so important.
Reasons Why Seniors are at Risk
- Polypharmacy – This term refers to the taking of multiple medications. As seniors age, the chances that they will be on many prescriptions as well as supplements and over-the-counter medications greatly increases. Unfortunately, this also increases their chances of having a drug-drug interaction, particularly if their physician is not aware of all the medications they are taking. Educating seniors about possible interactions and about the importance of telling their physician about any medication changes can greatly reduce this risk.
- Increased Risk for Overdose – There are two things which put seniors at an increased risk for overdose. Firstly, if they are forgetful, they can take an extra dose of a medicine by accident, not realizing that it has already been taken. Secondly, as seniors age, their bodies do not metabolize and excrete medications as efficiently as before. This means that there can be a build-up of medications in their system, even if medications are being taken correctly. Educating seniors about signs and symptoms of an overdose is thus very important.
- Noncompliance – Noncompliance can happen when a patient simply forgets to take their medications as prescribed. It can also happen when a patient refuses to take that medication. For instance, it is very common for seniors to be noncompliant with taking diuretics (medications which increase urination) because they do not want to get up and go to the bathroom frequently. Educating patients about the dangers of noncompliance is also very important to keep them safe.
How to Educate Seniors about Medications
- Sit Down and Talk About It – Simply sitting down with a senior – preferably with a Cincinnati home health caregiver, physician or other medical professional present to answer questions – and talking about their medications with them will give them a feeling of being included in the plan of care and will allow them to discuss doubts or concerns and learn more about their medications in general.
- Draw Up a Chart – Taking the time to draw up a chart or list of medications that a senior is on, what those medications are for and when they need to be taken, can be an incredible tool to ensure that those medications are being taken correctly. Make sure to post it in the area where the medications are kept as well as the front of the refrigerator for easy reference.
- Use Pill Packs – Pill packs are one of the simplest and most effective ways to monitor compliance and help seniors stay independent with their own medications. Pill packs can be organized by date and time and can help seniors keep track of when and what medications are taken. They are an easy way to help avoid medication complications and to keep the drugs organized and accessible.
Medication regimens grow increasingly complicated as a seniors age, putting them at a greater risk for having a medication-related complication. However, educating and supporting seniors in regards to their medications through discussion, charts and pill packs can help keep them on track with the plan of care.
If your aging parent or loved one needs help with mediation reminders, other activities of daily living or personal care, contact Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of in-home care in Cincinnati and learn more about our flexible hourly and live-in care plans. Simply dial 513-891-2273 to speak with a Care Manager and schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.