Older adults often take more than one daily medicine to manage health problems. Taking multiple medications puts them more at risk for errors and drug interactions that can lead to serious complications, or even death. Each year, problems with medications cause 1 million trips to emergency departments. The problem is so prevalent that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has an agency dedicated to tracking and preventing medication errors. Because medication errors can be caused by miscommunication with doctors or not understanding how to use a medicine properly, it’s important that family caregivers and older adults take the time to ask questions about new prescriptions.
Reasons You Need to Ask Questions
It can be tempting to simply grab the script for a new prescription and be on your way when caregiver duties have you spread thin, but it’s important to take a few extra minutes to learn about the new drug your aging relative will be taking. Some reasons you need to ask questions are:
- The way a person’s body reacts to medicines changes as they age, so you need to know how a drug—even a familiar one—might affect the older adult.
- Medication errors can result in excess costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adverse drug events cost Americans $3.5 billion.
- Drugs prescribed for one condition may create issues for another condition.
- Some drugs react differently based on what or when the older adult has eaten, so you need to know if there are foods to avoid or if the medication should be taken with food.
- Drugs can have side effects. Caregivers need to know what side effects to watch for, and which ones warrant a call or visit to the doctor.
What to Ask
It’s a good idea to pack all your aging relative’s medications in a bag and carry them with you to the doctor once per year for a review. Ask the doctor to look over all the medications and ask any questions you have. Some things that are helpful to know when medications are reviewed, or a new medication is prescribed are:
- What is this medication called? Yes, you can read the prescription label on existing medicines, but it’s a good idea to make sure you’re pronouncing the name correctly as it will make communication with other doctors and pharmacists easier.
- What does it do? Caregivers should understand what the medication is for and what to expect so they can report to the doctor if it doesn’t seem to be working.
- Will the drug interact with other medicines? Drug interactions can be dangerous, and some prescription drugs can interact with over the counter medications or supplements.
- How should it be stored? Some medications need to be stored in a certain way to maintain their potency.
- What are the side effects? Know which side effects to expect, what to do about them, and when you may need to call the doctor.
Managing the medication schedules of older adults can be complicated. Caregivers can help to avoid problems simply being more aware of what the senior is taking and why. Spending some extra time with the doctor now could prevent problems in the future.
If you or an aging loved one are considering caregivers in Katy, TX, please call the caring staff at At Your Side Home Care. We will answer all of your senior care questions. Call today: (832) 271-1600.
Our Certified Nurse Aides, 24-Hour Live-in Assistants and Home Health Aides are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We also provide the security and confidence of 24-hour Telephone Assistance, so fast, reliable help is always available when it's needed. To learn more about our homecare services see our homecare services page.
Different people need different levels of homecare. To meet the requirements of our clients, At Your Side Homecare maintains consistent staffing levels of caring professionals. Homecare service is available for as little as a few hours a week, or as many as 24 hours a day, seven days a week
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