Category Archives: Medication Reminder

Medication Management for Seniors

If you’re caring for a parent or a senior, there will come a time when you will have to become involved in managing their medication. When the opportunity arises, check the medicine cabinet or drawer where they keep their medications. Are there any duplicate bottles of drugs with some missing while other bottles of the same medicine are full? This is a sign that medications are not being taken as prescribed but prescriptions are just being refilled. Do any bottles have a mixture of medications? This is dangerous because some medications may interact with each other before they’re even consumed. Are there any bottles of expired medications? Are there any unlabeled containers or baggies with a jelly bean assortment of drugs in them? These are all warning signs that it’s time for you to become involved in managing your loved one’s medications.

This is a particularly important issue for seniors because seniors over 65 are responsible for the purchase of 30% of all prescription drugs and over 40% of all over the counter drugs. They typically deal with multiple chronic conditions that result in taking several medications often prescribed in multiple doses. Studies have shown that between 40% and 75% of seniors fail to take their medications at the right dosage and on the prescribed schedule.

The first and most important step to take to successfully manage the medications is to make a list of every drug your senior consumes. This includes prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and any vitamins and herbal supplements. This list needs to be taken to the doctor every time the senior goes to the doctor. It needs to be reviewed by the doctor and the pharmacist for any possible interactions or side effects like dizziness or lightheadedness. Check the labels of the medication bottles. Are any of the same drugs found in several medications? For example, many over the counter medications for colds and sinus problems contain acetaminophen which is the drug in Tylenol. If your loved one uses both at the same time, they’re doubling up on medications. That can be dangerous. Check with the doctor whether a prescribed drug continues to be needed and don’t make any changes or adjustments on your own. Be sure to let the doctor know if you notice any medication affecting your senior in some new or unsafe manner.

Use the same pharmacy for all prescriptions so their computer system can check for possible drug interactions and open the bag the prescription comes in right there at the pharmacy before you go home. According to the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, up to 5% of filled prescriptions involve some sort of error. Make sure the name on the prescription bottle matches the name on the bag. If the pills look different from what you’re used to, talk to the pharmacist. Don’t pass up the counseling from the pharmacist. You need to be clear on how the drug should be taken, for how long it should be taken, and what side effects may be expected. If your senior has multiple medications, a divided pill box can serve to remind them of what to take and when to take it. Following these steps will help you manage your senior’s medication and make sure they get the right medications at the right time and in the right amount. Share your experiences below and visit us at



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The Caregiver at the Doctor Visit

According to the Census Bureau, there are over 43.1 million persons in the United States that are 65 years of age or older. The elderly population is expected to double to 80 million when all the “baby boomers” have reached their elderly years. Due to advances in medical science these baby boomers will be living longer and that translates into huge numbers of people living with chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, or dementia. A large population of chronically ill older people means that more and more seniors will be dependant on others for help with their activities of daily living – in short, they’ll have a caregiver whether it’s a family member or a professional from an agency.

Caregivers are now and will increasingly in the future be an important component of doctor visits for the elderly. According to a study by Jennifer Wolff, PhD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doctor visits that include caregivers are an increasing trend that has important benefits. Her study showed that visits that included a caregiver lasted at least 20% longer and resulted in less social conversation between the doctor and the senior and more biomedical information being given to the patient. This is really important because a trip to the doctor is all about communication and the exchange of information. Doctors need information from patients to provide an accurate diagnosis and to provide treatment options. The patient needs to be able to clearly discuss and understand what’s going on. This is where the caregiver’s presence can be very valuable.
A caregiver can help the senior with every aspect of the visit beginning with getting ready for the visit by gathering all the necessary medical history information and making a list of current medications and by preparing a list of symptoms for the doctor along with any questions the senior may have. During the visit, the caregiver can make notes for the senior and can remind them of any symptoms they may have forgotten and can relate to the doctor any changes in the senior’s general health and abilities. In effect, the caregiver is a second set of eyes and ears and can request further clarification about the diagnosis, treatment options, and what can be expected down the line. After the visit, a caregiver can support the senior’s compliance with the doctor’s instructions by encouraging them to follow the prescribed course of treatment along with taking their medications as prescribed and by helping them further understand the doctor’s instructions if necessary. This in turn can help reduce possible hospital readmissions.

According to the study by Dr. Wolff, seniors and loved ones who have been accompanied by a caregiver to a doctor ended up being more satisfied with their overall care and were shown to be more likely to remember important information after their visit to the doctor. Please share your thoughts and experiences below and visit us at

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Older Adults and Medication – Part 2

As you get older or someone you care for enters their “senior” years, you have to be very careful about which medications are used. Older adults usually have several chronic medical conditions they are dealing with at any given time so that means they’re probably using a variety of drugs. The more medication you take, the greater are the odds that you can end up dealing with the effects of drug interactions. In addition, seniors are more sensitive to some drugs due to the natural changes in their bodies as they age.

Among the most commonly used and abused drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Long lasting versions include Feldene and Indocin which are available by prescription while shorter acting ones include Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. Because the shorter acting NSAIDS are available over the counter, there’s a misconception that they must be totally safe but keep in mind that they’re mean for short term use only. In fact, all NSAIDS carry a risk of indigestion and ulcers and in the over 75 age group there is a possibility of bleeding in the stomach or colon especially if your senior is taking aspirin or a blood thinner like Coumadin for their heart. In addition, NSAIDS can increase your blood pressure so if you’re taking medication for hypertension which is very common in seniors and you take an NSAID for your arthritis, the medications are fighting each other.

Other medications to use with caution include muscle relaxants and over the counter allergy and cold medications. Muscle relaxants such as Flexeril and diphenhydramine , which is the active ingredient in Benadryl and over the counter sleep aids like Tylenol PM, can cause confusion and grogginess along with blurred vision. This can be particularly troublesome for seniors since it can increase the risk of falling. If your senior takes something to help them sleep and something else because their allergies are bothering them, you can see how easily they could be double-dosing without realizing it!

In light of the fact that there is an endless list of possible drug combinations you or your loved one may be taking, it’s important to keep a CURRENT list of all drugs being used, including any over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. Take this list with you to every doctor visit and ask lots of questions. If your doctor prescribes a drug, be sure you are clear about what it’s for and how to properly take it. Ask if it will interfere with anything on your list and if any adjustments need to be made. Be sure to get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy so the pharmacist can also keep track of any possible interactions. Using a pill organizer at home can help you keep track of whether you’ve taken the medication as prescribed. If you start noticing a possible side effect to a medication, don’t just stop taking it without contacting your doctor. Follow his advice and be safe. Do you have any tips for managing your senior’s medications? Share below and visit us at

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Older Adults and Medications – Part I

When you are younger and in need of medication for an illness or injury, things are pretty simple. You go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, fill your prescription, and a few days later you’re feeling better. If you get a headache or pull a muscle at the gym, you pick up some over-the-counter analgesics and in a bit you’re back to your busy life good as new. It never occurs to you to monitor what you’re taking because you’re not taking a lot of medications with a lot of frequency. That changes as you reach your senior years. As you get older, it’s typical to be dealing with more than one chronic condition resulting in taking multiple medications which are very often prescribed in multiple doses. In fact, the average older person takes at least four prescription medications and at least two over-the-counter drugs on a regular basis. Seniors over 65 are responsible for the purchase of 30% of all prescription drugs and over 40% of all over-the-counter drugs. You can see where this is going. As you get older or someone you care for enters their senior years, it becomes increasingly important to manage medications.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to problems with medications for a variety of reasons. The more medications are taken, the greater the odds are that they may have an interaction that could be dangerous if not unpleasant. It’s not uncommon for a senior to simply stop taking a medication because of its side effects. Between 40% and 75% of seniors stop taking their medications at the right dosage and the right schedule. This issue is compounded by the fact that older adults are more sensitive to drugs because of their now slower metabolisms and organ functions, thus keeping drugs in their system for longer periods of time. Physical problems such as poor vision or a weak grip due to arthritis can result in dosing errors. Cognitive and memory issues can prevent the older adult from following the doctor’s orders and since so many seniors live alone there’s no one to assist them with nor monitor their use of drugs. Simply forgetting is a major reason medication doses are skipped by the elderly. With an increased number of chronic conditions the typical older adult sees a number of different physicians — the endocrinologist for their thyroid, the cardiologist for their heart problems, and so on. Multiple doctors equal multiple medications that can conflict with each other. You can see why studies have shown that any combination of these factors causes 30% of hospital admissions of older adults. It’s apparent that being able to manage an older adult’s medications is critical to their well being and even their ability to remain independently in their own home. Next time we’ll talk about which medications to be especially cautious about and what action you can take to help keep your senior safe with their medication. Visit us at

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Do A Drug Inventory

If you’re caring for a senior, you should do a drug inventory of their medications a couple of times a year. Even if they are completely capable of taking their own medications as prescribed, this is still a good idea. In fact, it’s something you should do for yourself also. There’s more to taking medications than just popping the pills and washing them down with a glass of water.

First of all, check where the medications are being stored. It’s very common to keep prescription bottles out so that seeing them serves as a reminder to take them. Often this means the drugs are stored on the bathroom counter or in the bathroom medicine chest. Both of these locations are not good for maintaining the quality of the medicine. The heat and humidity can cause the medicines to degrade. Save the medicine chest for storing medical supplies like bandages and cotton balls. Another favorite spot is on the kitchen counter or windowsill . That seems to make sense since that’s where you’d go to get that glass of water to wash them down. If that part of the counter is anywhere near the stove or any other appliance that gives off heat, you’ve got the same problem — heat and humidity. In addition, it’s never a good idea to leave any prescription drugs out in the open where someone else may get easy access to them. Your best bet is to keep all your medications in ONE location, such as in a dresser drawer or kitchen cabinet.

Other precautions you need to take are: If you use one of those handy automatic pill dispensers or organizers with compartments for each day, keep the remaining drugs in their original bottles. The amber or white plastic serves to keep light out. The labels provide important information like dosage, expiration date, and the number of the pharmacy to call for refills. Never leave a new prescription in the car. Locked cars can get very hot and affect the quality of the medications. If the prescription bottle has a cotton plug in it, remove it. The cotton can draw moisture into the container. Make sure to check the expiration date of the prescriptions so that you’re taking something that will do it’s job. Don’t share any prescription drugs with anyone else. Something that worked for you may be deadly for someone else. If you notice any physical change in the medicine’s color, odor, or texture, do not use it even if it hasn’t expired. After the inventory, dispose of the old medications responsibly. Do not flush them down the toilet where they will get into the water system. The easiest thing to do is crush them up, mix in some coffee grounds or kitty litter, and pour them into a small plastic bag. Add a little water to make a gooey mess and put the bag in the trash. What are you doing to stay safe with medications? Share below and visit us at

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Seniors Are Sensitive

As we and those we care for age, we have to be aware of our sensitivity to medications.  This increase in sensitivity to drugs is mostly due to the fact that the organs in our bodies that absorb and eliminate drugs slow down quite a bit.   Our kidney and liver function can slow to as much as 50% of their more youthful rate.  Generally, we have more body fat and less muscle mass. Since many drugs are fat-soluble, our bodies may absorb more of the medication.   The amount of water in our body decreases as we age and our hearts pump blood less effectively. This makes the effects of drugs much stronger.  All these changes occur naturally as we age.  The end result of these changes is that drugs are absorbed more slowly, take longer to start working, and stay in our bodies much longer after we stop taking them.   This can definitely become a serious issue in light of the fact that most drugs are formulated for and tested on younger adults who aren’t so sensitive.  For the senior population there is less information available on what the side effects of and reactions to different drugs are.  This problem is compounded by the fact that senior citizens consume over 25% of all drugs prescribed in the United States.  The average senior gets thirteen prescriptions a year.   In addition, they buy almost 50% of over-the-counter drugs sold.  Since  seniors generally  suffer from several chronic conditions, the number of prescriptions usually rises as we age.  The best thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to talk frequently with our doctors and our pharmacist.  Make sure you clearly let your doctor know what you are taking, how often, and at what dosage.  Ask if any new prescriptions are necessary for an underlying condition or is your doctor just treating the symptoms you have. Is there an actual diagnosis?  If you are taking any over-the-counter drugs, please let your doctor know.  They can easily interact with the prescribed medications.  Being overmedicated from taking multiple medications often leads to confusion and an increased incidence of falls in the elderly.  Pay attention to how your body reacts and how you feel when you begin a new medication.  Be aware of your sensitivity and don’t be shy about communicating with your doctor. What are you doing to keep yourself or the one you care for safe with medications?  Share below and visit us at


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How Do I Choose A Home Care Agency

Now that you’ve made the decision to use a home care agency to help care for you loved one, the daunting task of selecting one begins. A good place to start is to ask for referrals from friends and neighbors. In addition, your local Better Business Bureau and the local Chamber of Commerce may have a list of agencies and any possible complaints against them. Other great sources include senior centers, churches and social workers.

Before you start calling the agencies to narrow your choices, make a list of exactly what kinds of services you need and how often you need them. A reputable agency will want to do an assessment of your needs and design a plan of care with you for your loved one. Knowing what you’re looking for will help a lot in that process. There are questions you can ask to help narrow down your choice.

*How long has the agency been in business in your area?
*Is there a written description of what services are available with the rates for these services?
*Is there a minimum number of hours required?
*How is billing handled?
*Who takes care of the workers’ Social Security, Medicare, and tax deductions?
*How are caregivers hired and screened? Do they have to go through a background check and a drug test? Are they bonded and insured?
*Does the agency train employees? How much experience do they have?
*How are caregivers supervised and by whom?
*Is the same caregiver assigned at each visit? What happens if the caregiver gets ill or goes on vacation? If I’m unhappy with the caregiver sent out by the agency, can I request a different one?
*Are there any restrictions on how often or during what hours services are available?
*How is my loved one’s privacy protected?
*How are complaints or problems handled? How quickly is a staff member available if there’s a question or an issue comes up?
*Will a written plan of care be developed? Who will do it? Will the family be involved in the process? Is there a fee involved?
*If other community services or medical equipment is needed, will the agency help find them?
*Are references from current clients available?

The answers to these questions will help you select the agency which can best fill your needs. Are there other questions you believe should be asked? Share below. Visit us at

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Why Should I Use A Home Care Agency?

Once you’ve made the decision your senior or loved one needs some help to keep them safely in their own home, you need to decide if you should make some private arrangements to directly hire a caregiver or if you should go through a home care agency. Your first instinct may be to directly hire a caregiver, thinking this is the less expensive option. In effect this would make you both a case manager and an employer. You would have to do all the things a home care agency will do but without the experience or the time to do it. There are definite advantages to using a home care agency.

*Are you prepared to search for a caregiver? Where should you look? How do you know if the candidate is both qualified and experienced? A home care agency already has a staff of qualified, trained caregivers who also receive ongoing additional training.
*A home care agency will have run an in-depth background check of the caregivers they place in your home. The caregivers have also passed extensive drug tests and are bonded and insured. This is not typically done for direct hire caregivers.
*If you hire someone privately, you will be responsible for collecting and remitting Federal and State taxes to the government. You will have to deal with unemployment, workers’ compensation and the employment eligibility paperwork.
*A home care agency takes care of all the staffing issues. If the caregiver becomes ill or is on vacation there are back-up caregivers on staff so that services won’t be interrupted.
*Through an agency, caregivers are supervised and they are matched to be a good fit with your loved one. This is especially important since you probably won’t be there while the caregiver is with your loved one. Keep in mind that if things don’t work out with the caregiver you’ve hired directly, you’ll have to start the search and hiring process all over.
*You can be more flexible with services through an agency. A direct hire caregiver may not be available if you want to change prescheduled times or days or if you need the type of service changed. With an agency, adjustments can be made when your needs change.

The ultimate goal of using a home care agency is to keep your loved ones in their own home for as long as possible. If you’ve gotten to the point where you can no longer do all the caregiving on your own then it just makes sense to have an experienced agency take some of the burden off your shoulders. For more information, visit us at

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Is It Time For Home Care?

As our parents age, we gradually take on the responsibility of caring for them and helping them with their activities of daily life. It starts out slowly. Perhaps we make extra portions of dinner and bring it to them so they have a nice hot meal. Maybe we pick mom up and take her grocery shopping so she doesn’t have to drive. When we stop by we put the garbage out or do a couple loads of laundry. After all, our goal is to keep them safe and comfortable in their own home surrounded by their own familiar things. As our parents age, the number and frequency of these thoughtful actions slowly increase. Then one morning we wake up to find we are now the parents, making daily decisions for them and helping them with everything. It’s time for home care. Just the thought of getting professional home care for our loved one can stir up deep feelings of guilt. It’s important to remember that we owe our loved ones the honest, warm relationship that exists between loving parents and children. We need to keep that role as a loving child alive and not trade it in for a role as a caregiver. This is often compounded by the issue of juggling the demands of work and our own children.. The signals that our parents need help are often subtle and we may not come to this realization until we’ve become overwhelmed by caregiving. Remember, you can’t be much help to them if you are burned out yourself. Look for these clues that it may be time to get some help.

*Is their personal hygiene good? Do they bathe regularly? Are teeth being brushed and hair combed?
*Are there any physical changes in your loved ones? Do they look thinner? Do they seem weak or do they fall frequently?
*Are meals being prepared? Is there any stale or expired food in the refrigerator or cupboards?
*Is the house being cleaned and maintained? Is there a lot of clutter or trash around?
*Does the car have any unexplained dents or scratches? Has your loved one gotten lost driving somewhere familiar?
*Are there any safety issues like coffee pots left on or doors left unlocked at night?
*Have you noticed any memory problems? Have appointments been missed or medications not taken?
*Are your loved ones isolating themselves and avoiding social functions or family gatherings?
*Have you noticed any mental changes? Are they often moody or seem distant and vague?

If you see some of these changes in your loved ones, it may be time to talk to the family about getting some help for them. As parents age, its often easier to accustom them to having someone come in to the home for shorter periods of time. As their needs change, the type and amount of help can be adjusted. The goal is to help your seniors stay in their own home for as long as possible. This is where they are the most comfortable. Have you noticed other signals that your parents need help? Share below. Don’t forget to visit us at

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How Can A Senior Take Medications Safely?

If you care for a senior friend or relative, you’ve certainly had concerns about their medications. Over a third of all prescriptions written are accounted for by seniors over 65. Because of their age, their hearing, vision, and ability to remember things is often diminished. Seniors generally have multiple health problems and these problems are probably being controlled or treated by a variety of drugs. This can lead to a disaster just waiting to happen. How can you be sure they take their medications? How can they ensure their own safety? Are they taking the right amount? There are things you and your loved one can do to prevent problems and adverse drug reactions. Be proactive – don’t wait for something to go wrong!

*Keep a list of all medications including over the counter drugs and herbal supplements. Record their dosages along with any special instructions and who prescribed them.
*Take the medication list every time the senior goes to the doctor so it can be reviewed for any possible drug interactions or dosage adjustments.
*Get all prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. This will allow the pharmacist to also check for any possible interactions.
*Keep the old pill container until you get a refill. Compare the information on the bottles to see if there are any changes you aren’t aware of. Contact your pharmacy and/or the doctor’s office if something is unfamiliar.
*Be sure to read the literature that comes with the medication. Be aware of and look out for any possible negative reactions. Seniors are especially sensitive to new medications.
*Take medicine exactly as prescribed and don’t stop taking it without the doctor’s orders.
*Be sure any old medications are disposed of. They can degrade quickly and cause more harm than good.
*Store medicines in a cool, dark place (not the bathroom) and try to keep them all together.
*NEVER use medication prescribed for someone else.
*A pill box or compartmentalized medication reminder box is a great way to keep multiple doses of several medications organized in one spot. They are labeled for the different days of the week and for the different times of the day. You can check with one look whether a dose has been missed.

Following these tips can help manage a senior’s medication and prevent an adverse drug reaction. It can help prevent constipation, depression, falls, fractures or the confusion that can result from the mismanagement of medications. Do you have any other helpful tips? Share below and don’t forget to visit us at

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