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Managing medication: a quick guide

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Managing medication can become difficult as people get older. If left unchecked, this can lead to a decline in a person’s overall health and sense of wellbeing.

Whether your loved one forgets to take their medication, takes too much or too little, or takes their medication at irregular intervals, the result is often a significant decrease in the effectiveness of the treatment.

With the right support in place, your loved one’s medical treatment can be optimised, and the secondary risks associated with poor medication management can be reduced significantly.

Why do older people have difficulty administering their own medication?

On average, older people are prescribed seven separate medications to be taken on a daily basis. Memorising instructions for this many medications can be confusing, so it’s no surprise that 10% of hospital admissions among this age group result from poor medication management.

Prescribed medications are likely to include a broad range of substances aimed at managing specific conditions or enhancing overall wellbeing, including:

  • Multi-vitamins
  • Statins
  • Anti-depressants/anti-psychotic medication
  • Condition-specific medication

There are many reasons why an older person might take their medication incorrectly, such as:

  • Problems remembering when and/or how to take medication
  • Incomplete or inaccurate doctors’ instructions
  • Lack of faith in the effectiveness of the medicine
  • A desire to increase effectiveness by taking more than the recommended dosage
  • A wish to avoid unwelcome side effects
  • Difficulty accessing medication (in a pharmacy or at home)

How can I help my loved one better manage their medication?

Gathering information

Encourage your loved one to ask their doctor about any aspects of the medication they may have doubts about, such as how to store it or what the potential side effects might be.

Make sure the pharmacist writes the condition the medication is designed to treat clearly on each pill box. This will aid your loved one’s recollection and enable a caregiver to monitor the situation closely. Also, make sure they ask about any developments with their medication on return visits.

Creating a list

To make sure this information is available when required, list all the key details of the medications in a single document, including:

  • Dosage
  • Dosing times and frequency
  • Generic and brand names for medication
  • Reason for prescription
  • How often a new batch will be required
  • Form of medication and administration method (e.g. a tablet to be swallowed, a cream to be applied to skin, etc.)

This list should be accessible to both your loved one and their caregiver. It can be presented as a chart or calendar, or you can set up recurring reminders on any devices they might use.

Administering medications

Special pill boxes (known as dosette boxes) can be used to store all medications required each day in a single compartment, labelled for consumption in the morning, afternoon or evening.

Your loved one’s pharmacist should be able to prepare a blister pack that does much the same if they have a cognitive condition, such as dementia. This is the preferred method as it leaves much less room for human error. Many care companies will not be able to administer medications from a dossette box that you or your loved one have prepared, but will be able to manage medication from a pharmacy-prepared blister pack.

Automatic dispensers are another option, with some variants notifying friends or relatives if your loved one hasn’t taken their medication.

Encouraging your loved one to store their medication in the box it came in (complete with pharmacy label) can help to remind them of when and how they need to take each form of medication.

Getting the right support

The only way to truly feel confident that your loved one is taking medication as recommended is to monitor their intake on a daily basis. A live-in care team can provide 24/7 support, and a level of specialist medical expertise that enables them to assist with complex medical requirements, including medication management.

The Good Care Group’s live-in care service can help your loved one manage their medication intake and improve their overall quality of life. Contact our friendly team if you’d like to find out more.

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