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Older Adults Taking Medications

Taking medications can be confusing to older adults.Taking medicines may be “old hat” to you, but for a senior it can be confusing or something new that seems hard to remember. Whether the older adult has taken medicines before or not, there are some important things to remember about taking medicine each day.

If the medicines are not taken as prescribed, what could happen? First, the medicines to help manage a medical condition may not work properly - the indiviudal won’t get any relief and if the medical condition may get worse. Second, not taking pills properly may cause side effects that can be mild – or very harmful.

It’s Just Pills - How Hard Can This Be?

It is very important for older adults to take the time to learn how and when to take pills. Some pills must be taken at night to work well; others with food. Some cannot be taken together or  the effect of one pill will cancel out the other pill. Seniors, or family caregivers should write down each time a pill is taken on a weekly medication log and take the log to the doctor at each appointment. This can very helpful since trying to remember when a pill was taken can be a challenge for anyone at any age. 

Why So Many Pills?

The number of pills can seem overwhelming. Doctors often need to prescribe multiple medications for some medical conditions as each one treats a different symptom.

For each medicine, the individual should know:

  • The name of the medicine and if it is a brand or generic.
  • What the medicine is supposed to do and how long before there may be the effects. If the medicine does not appear to be working, the doctor should be notified.
  • How it should be taken and when it should be taken – and for how long.
  • What foods, drinks or other medicines shoudl be avoided.
  • The possible side effects and when to call the doctor.

How Can an Older Adult Remember to Take All the Medications?

  • Older adults should take medications at the same time each day. Doing it at the same time as any activity, like brushing your teeth, helps a person remember.
  • Use reminders such as a weekly pill box; timer caps for the bottles - some beep when it is time to take a pill or use a color coding system for time of day.

If the medicines are too expensive, encourage the older adult to talk to his or her doctor or or pharmacist or home care nurse; they may be able to help. If some needs immediate help, they should contact an Interim HealthCare franchise location.

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