Kim Elliott, RN, Expert on Healthy Aging

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06 January 2020

Modern medicine can work wonders. However, in order to be effective, you have to take medicine safely and according to prescribing guidelines. In addition, patients and health care providers need to be vigilant about the dangers of drug interactions.

According to the National Council on Patient Information and Education, seniors take more prescription and over-the-counter drugs than any other age group. Researchers for the National Center for Biotechnology Information estimate that 25% of people ages 65 to 69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions. That jumps to almost 46% for those between the ages of 70 and 79.

Many factors can make medication management difficult, but these eight tips may help you get your meds under control.

Management Challenges

While doctors prescribe medication to treat a range of chronic conditions from arthritis to diabetes and high blood pressure, you may find managing your medications difficult for multiple reasons:

  • Many meds and many prescribers — Multiple medications are often prescribed by multiple doctors who may or may not be aware of other prescriptions the patient is already taking. Taking a large number of medications can increase the risk of a drug interaction, which can be very harmful.
  • Adverse side effects — Nausea, constipation, skin rashes, insomnia and dizziness are some common drug side effects.
  • Lack of knowledge — Not understanding exactly what the medication is supposed to do, and discontinuing use.
  • Physical challenges — Age-related physical challenges such as hearing or vision loss, dexterity issues or trouble swallowing can make it difficult to take medications as prescribed.
  • Cognitive challenges — Seniors with memory loss or dementia may forget to take their medications as prescribed.
  • Cost — Even with Medicare and supplemental health insurance, many medications can come with a hefty price tag.

Medication Management Made Easier

Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to manage your medications better.

  1. Make a list of every medication you take, what it is for and what the pill actually looks like.
  2. Make a checklist of all your medications. Every time you take a prescription, note the date, time and dosage on your checklist.
  3. If you have trouble reading the labels on your prescriptions or can’t open the bottle, ask your pharmacist to provide your medicine in easy-to-open containers with large-print labels.
  4. Make a plan for getting your prescriptions. You may decide to schedule a drive to the pharmacy every month on a certain day or have someone drive you there. You may also find an online pharmacy that can deliver your prescriptions to your home.
  5. When you go to the doctor, take your list of prescriptions with you, especially if you’re seeing him or her for the first time. Your list will help the doctor know what medications you’re already taking.
  6. Work with your doctors to see if you can reduce the number of pills you take by consolidating medicines. For example, if you take a pill to reduce water retention and medication for high blood pressure, some prescription drugs combine both types of medicine into a single pill.
  7. Keep all your prescriptions with one pharmacy and get to know the pharmacists who work there. Your pharmacist may be able to help you spot potential drug interactions.
  8. Technology can help you remember to take medications on time. Set an alarm on your cellphone or download an event reminder app on your smartphone to help you remember when it’s time to take your medicine.

With a little planning and assistance, you can better manage your medications to help you get the most out of your prescriptions.

The above content is shared for educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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