Here are some questions to help you figure out if your parents and older adults you might be caring for need help managing their medicines. Do they:
- Get upset if you ask questions about how they take their medicine?
- Have more than one medical condition?
- Use more than one medicine?
- Have problems seeing or hearing?
- Seem to have trouble getting around the house?
- Experience memory problems?
- Have difficulty or is unable to drive or walk safely to the pharmacy?
If you’ve answered “yes,” to any of these questions, the older adult in your life may need help with their meds. If they do, talk with them about the medications they take, if they suffer any side effects, and ask if they need any support.
- Know what medicines are being taken. Go to one pharmacy for all prescriptions. This can help avoid drug interactions, lessen the chance of taking similar medicines prescribed by different providers, and act as a prescription renewal reminder.
- Maintain a medicine list with the drug name, what it’s taken for, the dosage, how often it’s taken, and other details. Bring this to healthcare appointments.
- Go to medical appointments with the person in your care, if possible. Share your concerns and take notes!
- Encourage writing down concerns before medical appointments. For example, is the medication helping? Are there side effects? Again, take notes! – 10 Questions to Ask About the Medicines You Take
- Review medicine labels to understand potential side effects or drug interactions.
- Make sure they can read, understand, and follow dosing instructions. Do they understand when to take the medication, forgetting a dose, or unable to tell pills apart?
- Ask if help is needed putting together a medicine schedule.
- Ask how they take the medicine. Is the drug being taken safely and correctly to maximize the benefits?
- Stress not making decisions about medicines alone, without a healthcare professional. Suddenly stopping some medicines can be dangerous.
- If your parents have vision problems or difficulty with written English, suggest color-coding prescription bottles and put colors on a chart that gives directions for each drug. Ask the pharmacist for large print labels. If arthritis is an issue, request non-child proof caps. It’s essential to store medicines out of sight and reach of children.
- Make taking medicines part of a daily routine. For example, if a parent always has a morning cup of tea, leave a reminder by the tea cups.
- Periodically discuss “deprescribing” with the doctor. Review all meds to see if any can be safely stopped.