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tips for caregivers: Managing Medications

If your loved one is 65 or older, you probably manage from two to seven or more medications every day. You may feel like your whole day revolves around medication planning for your loved one. Of the 1.7 billion prescriptions written each year, more than a third are for older adults. Different medicines work in different ways. Here are some helpful medication management tips for your loved one.

  1. Always be sure that prescription medications are taken for as long as the doctor recommends-even if your loved one feels better or doesn't notice any improvement right away.

  2. A medication regimen can be most effective when you, your loved one, the doctor and pharmacist all work together as a team. Be sure to alert the doctor or pharmacist if your loved one has trouble remembering to take medications, difficulty reading labels, hearing problems that make it hard to understand verbal instructions, trouble opening bottles, breaking pills or handling medication apparatus, difficulty swallowing pills, or trouble scheduling different medicines throughout the day.

  3. To overcome common challenges of medication management, use a "days-of-the-week" pill box as a daily reminder, install a "medication dispenser" that uses a verbal reminder, or request medicine in liquid rather than pill form to help your loved one with swallowing.

  4. If new symptoms develop while your loved one is taking a medication, contact the doctor immediately. A new symptom could be a side effect of the medicine. Excessive drowsiness, confusion, insomnia, loss of appetite, incontinence and other symptoms often blamed on "getting old" may actually be the result of negative interaction among multiple medications or other medication-related problems.

  5. Make sure you're asking your loved one's doctor and pharmacist the right questions: What is the name of the medicine? What is it supposed to do? Are there any side effects? What should I do if they occur? How should this medicine be taken? What should I do if the person my loved one misses a dose? Are there any beverages, foods or other medicines that should be avoided while taking this medicine? How should this medicine be stored?

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.