Did you know that over four billion prescriptions are filled at U.S. pharmacies within a given year? This high volume of medication requires careful management and monitoring at every stage in the process, from pharmacists all the way to caregivers and patients.
For seniors, medication management is especially important. Here’s why careful consideration matters, and what you can do to manage medication safely.
Why Medication Management is Critical for Seniors
A high percentage of seniors take prescription drugs. Approximately 70% of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, with seniors making up more than 40% of those prescriptions.
Many seniors are taking multiple prescription drugs. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, on average, individuals ages 65 to 69 years old take nearly 14 prescriptions per year and individuals aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year. That’s a lot to manage!
A high number of prescriptions increases the risk of mistakes. Taking the appropriate medication at the right time is extremely important, but if you are keeping track of multiple medications, it can be easier for errors to occur.
Poor medication management can lead to adverse reactions and hospitalizations. Adverse drug reactions and failure to take medication correctly are significantly higher among older adults aged 65 and older, leading to frequent emergency room visits and a difficult recovery.
Proper medication dosage and management can support full recovery of a short-term illness or control of a chronic illness. Seniors and their caregivers should take great care in managing medications, especially after an injury or illness, to increase their chances of a good outcome.
Managing Medication Safely
Here are some general tips to follow at home for yourself or a loved one. These tips can help you to make sure that your medication is stored safely and taken on time.
- Follow the doctor’s instructions for each medication. For example, don’t skip doses. If your doctor suggests taking medication with food or a glass of water, follow his or her advice.
- Use a medication reminder or a pill dispenser. Your written reminders or dispenser should be in a visible place, like near the refrigerator or on the counter. Some patients have good results from setting an alarm on their phone or other device to take medication throughout the day.
- Pay attention to new symptoms caused by new medications. When you start a new medication, make note of any changes to things like appetite, fatigue, or mood. Your doctor can use this information to find the right medication for you in the future.
- Keep a written list of your medications, and make sure it’s updated regularly. If you see a new doctor or specialist, you’ll have your list and won’t forget to mention a medication.
- Get all prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy, if possible. This allows your pharmacist to access your history more readily, and lets you schedule refills in advance.
- Conduct an annual medication management checkup. Every year, spend time with your primary doctor discussing all of the medications that you take to see if adjustments need to be made.
What is a Medication Management Plan?
Also known as a pharmaceutical care plan, a medication management plan is a collaborative medication strategy designed to achieve continuity of care for your healthcare team. This plan allows for assessing your current medications and keeping records of clinical reviews, therapeutic monitoring, and adverse reactions. With this plan, medical specialists and caregivers can collaborate on a thorough and comprehensive outline to make sure that the patient is getting the best outcomes.
A medication management plan includes basic identifying information, such as:
- Current medications
- Recent changes in dosages
- Medication history
- Medications that have been recently discontinued
- Newly added medications
- Recorded side effects
The plan will also include communication details for the patient and their doctors, and the names and contact information of the recipients of the plan. Another important part of the plan is a list of the patient’s healthcare goals, like the goals for medication therapy, implementation strategies, and preferred administration methods.
Risks should also be included in a medication plan, so that all healthcare providers and caregivers are aware of the patient’s limitations and safety concerns. This can include visual impairment, allergies, and dementia diagnosis.
With safe medication practices and a thorough medication plan on file, you or your loved one can ensure that you are safely utilizing medications in the way they are intended, and that everyone involved in the care process is on the same page.