Caregivers often find themselves locked in a battle to convince seniors to keep taking medication. Nearly half of senior citizens are prescribed 5 or more medications every month, and a quarter fill 10 to 19 prescriptions, according to Medco Health Solutions. For family caregivers, making sure these drugs are taken regularly, safely, and in the right doses, is a major cause of worry.
There’s a lot at stake: the ability of your loved ones to thrive. “About 40 percent of deteriorating patient conditions can be attributed to medication error—overuse, under use, or misuse.” says CEO Wayne Bazzle of Cycle Care Solutions.
6 Ways to Get Boston Seniors to Keep Taking Medication
Beyond worries about the high cost of some drugs, there are many reasons or excuses why the elderly in Concord and other Boston area neighborhoods won’t keep taking medication. For some problems your best approach is to put the act of taking medicine in a more positive light, while for others you’ll be addressing a physical or memory barrier.
If they forget to refill prescriptions: Keep a refills calendar and schedule trips to the pharmacy.
If they skip doses at home: Ask a home helper to give medication reminders. Once the weekly pills are placed in a pillbox with daily and time-of-day compartments, you and your professional caregiver can easily check to make sure the prescribed doses are being taken.
If they refuse to keep taking medication because they “feel fine”: Have the pharmacist explain to your loved one how the medications need to be taken even when she feels well. You and the home helper can start referring to them as “health maintenance pills”.
If they say they don’t need so many pills: Make a list together of the pills, what each one looks like, and what it is prescribed for. Remind your aging parent how each drug or supplement is helping them stay well and remain independent. Post your list on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror. Note – If your spouse or elderly parent feels they are taking too many pills, consider this: they may be right! * (see below)
- If they complain of nausea or other uncomfortable side effects: Call the primary care doctor and explain the symptoms. Ask if there is a dose adjustment or alternate medication that the doctor can prescribe. Some side effects are temporary, and typically last a week or less. If this is the case, reassure the person in your care that the side effects will diminish and the medicine is helping him keep his strength up.
- If they have trouble swallowing certain pills: Mouth sores or poorly fitting dentures can make pill swallowing harder. You can try giving the pill before they put their dentures in, or crushing the pill into a small amount of applesauce or pudding. If that doesn’t work, ask your pharmacist if the medication comes in liquid form.
You can see that convincing seniors to keep taking medication means finding out whether they stopped because of memory issues, not understanding the purpose of the medication, financial concerns, depression, or physical restrictions such as trouble swallowing larger pills.
* There’s a phenomenon doctors call “polypharmacy”, used to describe the practice of prescribing multiple drugs, often by different medical specialists. As new prescriptions get added, they may reduce the effectiveness of other pills or even combine to produce unwanted complications. The person’s primary care doctor should always be consulted before adding a new medication.
Getting seniors to keep taking medication is a major stress producer for Boston area caregivers. Having home care in place means you will know right away if the senior is having trouble with his meds. Knowing the reasons your parent or spouse doesn’t want to take his pills makes it much easier to intervene and get your aging parent or spouse back on track.