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Elderly patients take about three times as many medications as younger patients do. They are also the greatest consumers of prescribed and non-prescribed medications. There has been a gradual increase in prescription drug use in the United States. According to Medicare, the average number of prescriptions per year, including refills, is currently 28.5 per senior (up from 19.6 in 1992). 15-25 % of seniors are prescribed five or more medications, and one-third of seniors over the age of 85 take 10 or more different medications. That is a lot for anyone to manage and keep track of. Medication errors are happening far too often, and can result in adverse reactions, hospitalizations and even death.  Medication safety for seniors is therefore an important subject to address.

 Tips for Safely Managing Multiple Medications

  • Keep a list of all medications you take. Update and review your medication list regularly. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medication and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.

  • Make sure that all of your physicians know about every medication you are taking.

  • Make sure your physician knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medications. This can help you to avoid getting a medication that could harm you.

  • Ask for written information about the side effects your medication could cause. If you know what might happen, you will be better prepared.

  • Fill all your prescriptions at one pharmacy. Most pharmacies have databases that will alert the pharmacist to any medications that may react with each other.

  • Read all the informational safety sheets provided by your pharmacist.

  • Keep all medications organized in an easily accessible place. Be sure to keep them away from heat, humidity and bright light.

  • Many pharmacies are able to fill prescriptions in blister packs. These blister packs keep medications separated by day of the week and the time of day they need to be taken.

  • Keep a calendar or journal of your daily activities, appointments and medication schedule. This is an easy reminder for all the things you are doing.

  • Programmable alarms can be set to remind multiple times a day of when you should be taking your medications.

  • If you use a smart phone, there are many “apps” designed to alert you when it is time to take your medications.

  • Automated pill machines are available which can be programmed to schedule and deliver medications. They are locked after they have been filled, and sound an alert when the medication is due. The user simply pushes a button and the medication is dispensed.  Some also come with alerts that will draw your attention to missed doses and when the medication unit needs refilling.

As one of the many benefits of CAREmasters private duty home health care services, we can help with medication safety and education, along with a wide range of services tailored to your individual needs. Please call us for more information.