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When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, staying on top of medication is key. While it’s vital to have a current list of all medications and supplements, there are also physical issues that can make taking meds correctly an issue.
Here are some tips to help you stay in control of your/your loved one’s meds.
As we age, it can be hard to keep up with new changes to our daily regime, especially when that means taking medicine you’ve never taken before!
Pill planning boxes are great tools to plan the 7 days ahead. If you have a loved one that needs help, this is something you can do for them each week. If you do not live close by, have a friend or neighbor you trust go over and set it up.
There’s also the opportunity to make it a social! Organize a weekly video chat, like FaceTime or Skype, and remotely assist your loved one to ensure it is set it up correctly.
If remembering when & how to take medication is tough, try to schedule meds around mealtimes, brushing teeth, or other daily rituals. Pick the ritual based on the number of times you or your loved one needs to take a med.
It’s easy to set up a phone alarm specifically for medication taking. If you are caring for someone outside of your home, set an alarm as a reminder to call your loved one and have a chat… while reminding them to take their meds!
If you or a loved one have vision issues that mean you can’t easily read a prescription or medicine bottle, tell your pharmacist. They can print out labels with bigger text to help with reading the label, dose, and prescriber name.
There is lots of new technology out there to help with this. There are self-dispensing med machines that make a sound when its time to take medicine and then dispense it. There are also special pill bottle caps that can count the times they have been opened.
But, if memory continues to be a real struggle with med management, it is also an indicator that it is time for more hands-on care.
Depending on your loved one’s illness or disability, swallowing can be a concern. Also, some people just have an aversion to pills, despite being healthy. If this is the case, ask your doctor. There are often other ways of prescribing meds such as patches, liquid medication, and suppositories.
This one is tough. You can‘t make someone take something they don’t want to take as long as they have the ability to make their own decisions. If they don’t have that ability, they shouldn’t be taking their own meds and it’s time for a caregiver.
Hearing can be a real source of isolation, and can also be a problem in med management. If your loved one struggles with hearing, make sure they actually HEARD what the doctor, the pharmacist, or their caregiver said about how to take their meds. Ask the provider to “speak up” and have them write down the directions, in simple language.
Arthritic hands and other disabilities can make it hard to take medicines. There are “easy-open” pill bottles which can be requested. Also, the pharmacist can cut pills in half for you before you leave the pharmacy, so as to get the correct dose.
For other types of medication, like inhalers or insulin, it is helpful and likely necessary to have a caregiver to assist.
If the changes above don’t work, and keeping on top of meds continues to be a concern, it’s time to get help.
There are also other things to remember outside of the physical realm. These can seem like second nature, but it’s always good to double-check.
Always keep medications out of the hands of children – both ones that might live in the house and ones that might visit occasionally.
With any medicines that are kept separately from a pill planner, include something in the planner – like a note – to remind you/your loved one to take it on schedule.
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Don’t do it. Do not share meds. If your dad needs a med that your mom is also on, reach out to your dad’s doctor, or encourage him to. If you are concerned about meds being stolen, contact the police or Adult Protective Services in your area.
Always pay attention. If your loved one begins having symptoms that are new or different from the past, always consult a physician. It could be a side-effect of a new medication or a sign of interaction between an old med and a new med. The BEERS list is also a good resource to see what is okay/not okay for aging adults to take, and what their risks are.
Never be afraid to holler “uncle” and ask for help. Professionals in this field are just that – professionals. Stepping into the role of caregiver can be a steep learning curve, and don’t beat yourself up for not knowing it inside out. Ask for help, and give yourself grace.