The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that nearly
half of older adults who have caregivers take between five and nine different
prescriptions a day, and a huge source of stress for caregivers is managing
those medications. Medication management and being responsible for getting
prescriptions filled and ensuring there are no
adverse drug interactions or side effects can be difficult. Tracking and sorting all of the pills,
liquids, creams, nasal sprays and eyedrops — as well as administering
them all — is exhausting.
Here are five tips to help make medication management safer and simpler:
- Start by keeping everyone’s medications in a designated place. If
your mom knows that her medications are in one cabinet and your dad’s
are in another, she’s less likely to grab the wrong bottles by mistake.
- Organize more than one week of pills at a time. Set up pill organizers
to track daily intake. Pharmacies can dispense medications in blister
packs rather than in bottles. These are great for several reasons –
first, the seal in the back is fairly thin, and it’s a lot easier
to pop the pill out of the seal than it is to unscrew the cap. You also
don’t have to worry about the bottles getting knocked over or pills
spilling. The blister packs are usually numbered from 1 to 30, so it’s
easy to see if that day’s pill has been taken.
- Use different colored pillboxes to serve as a trigger to remember. One
patient may put daytime medications in a bright yellow pillbox, but use
a dark blue box for nighttime meds.
Set alarms. Cell phones and some wristwatches have alarm settings, but
if your parent isn’t tech savvy, use regular alarm clocks. Set them
near the medications to be taken when that alarm goes off—or look
for pillboxes that have built-in alarms. If your loved one’s medication
regimen is incredibly complex or if memory issues are a concern, look
into a service like
Pill Box, which send caregivers alerts when a dosage is missed. Computerized medication
dispensers can be programmed to dispense specific medications at the push
of a button at preset times and also alert family if a medication isn’t
taken on schedule.
- Create and maintain an updated medication and supplements list. A comprehensive
list ensures that you won’t forget anything while filling the pillboxes
and also helps any caregiver or emergency-response person easily find
the information. In addition, consider keeping a copy in a folder to bring
to doctor’s appointments or hospital visits. Make a medications
list easily accessible at all times by creating it in a Word or Excel
document on your computer. You can then can access it on a smartphone
or tablet via Dropbox. Or, try keeping a copy in an app like Evernote
app or in another app designed for caregiving. Some caregiving apps make
the process easier by allowing you to add the information by simply scanning
the medication bottles.
Medication management tools are also offered through the CVMC Health First
Center. Phillip’s Lifeline products available there offer “smart”
electronic pill organizers and dispensers that sound an alarm when it’s
time to take pills and that send notifications to caregivers when pills
have or have not been taken. To find out more about
Phillips’s medication dispensing services, please email Carol Robinson at
firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her by phone at 828.485.2696.
The bottom line: Create a system (high- or low-tech) that works for you
and your loved ones and ensures that the correct medications are being
taken at the correct times. A little organization can save lives, ease
pain and make everyone’s life easier.