Although they only represent about 15% of the U.S. population, older Americans take one-third of all prescription and OTC medications each year. Common medication management issues the elderly face include accidental overdoses, drug interactions, forgetting to take their meds as prescribed, and having expired medications on hand. As a result, many seniors are hospitalized each year for medication-related emergencies. As a caregiver, there are several ways to improve your loved one’s medication management program, starting with these.

Medication-Related Challenges for Seniors

Almost 90% of people aged 65-and-over take one or more prescription drugs for chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis. Over 35% take 5 or more, so it’s easy for mix-ups to happen, and notably when a senior suffers from memory loss or poor vision.

Here are some other medication-related challenges seniors face:

  • Medications stay in their system longer.
  • Many quit taking their meds because of side effects, finances, or other reasons.
  • Most get prescriptions from several different doctors.
  • Age-related changes to the body alter the way drugs are distributed and concentrated.
  • Their liver and kidneys don’t effectively metabolize and eliminate drugs from the body.

If you are caring for an aging loved one who takes several different medications, not having a good compliance system in place could threaten their health and wellbeing.

Your Medication-Management Program

On the positive side, devising a good medication management program is possible when taking these steps:

Learn About Their Health Condition(s)

Learn as much as possible about their health condition(s) by speaking to their healthcare providers, consulting trustworthy online sources, or joining a topic-related support group.

Keep a Medication List

Keep an updated medication list that includes the following information for every drug they are taking, including OTC products and supplements:

  • Name of the drug and the prescribing doctor, if it’s a prescription
  • Why they are taking it
  • How often and at what dose it’s taken
  • When refills are needed

Read the Labels

Make sure to read the prescription bottle labels, Drug Facts labels on OTC packaging, and the Patient Medicine Information inserts that come with medications when they’re first prescribed. While doing so, look for:

  • Proper storage requirements
  • Possible side effects, allergic reactions and drug interactions
  • What the medicine is used for
  • Warnings

If you have any questions, speak to a pharmacist or the prescribing doctor.

Store the Medications Properly

Based on the labeling, store all medications properly by:<