Medications are an important part of medical treatment, especially for older adults. As the risks of disease and other health challenges increase with age, so does the number of medications that we take. Balancing multiple medications for yourself or for an older loved one can be a challenge.
“When people are taking a lot of prescriptions, the risk for complications goes up,” says Janki Bhakta, a clinical pharmacist at InnovAge Colorado’s Thornton center
. “People also forget to take their medications, take it incorrectly, or decide they just don’t want to take their meds anymore. That can lead to more trips to the emergency room, hospital, or doctor’s office.”
adults between the ages of 65 and 70 take an average of 16 prescriptions a year. The numbers are even higher when antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other over-the-counter (OTC) medications are included. “We can’t discount the impact of OTC drugs,” says Janki. “Some of them can lead to further complications in older adults
, and it’s really important that your medical team has the full picture of what drugs you are taking – both prescribed and OTC.”
Pharmacists help seniors enrolled in PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly)
by working closely with InnovAge’s care coordination team
s. Prescription drugs and prescribed over-the-counter medications that are medically necessary are included in PACE at no cost to participants. “Together, we look at everything participants are taking to identify possible side effects, negative interactions, and unnecessary doses. We help providers make the best choices on what to prescribe,” Janki explains.
Corie Shepard, a medication reconciliation nurse at InnovAge Colorado’s Lakewood center
suggests keeping a notebook. “You or your loved one can write down when a new medication was taken, a prescribed medication was not
taken, and if there was a reaction to either change,” she says. “Also, list anything you take over the counter. Then share that notebook with your doctor.”
Corie and Janki also recommend these tips on managing medications:
- Always take medications as prescribed. Do not take expired medications. Keep medications in a cool, dry area.
- Take medications at the same time each day and in the same place. For example, take your medications when you eat breakfast in the kitchen or have dinner in the dining room.
- Be sure you understand how to take your medications, including if they must be taken with or without food.
- Keep pre-packaged medications in their original packaging rather than removing them and putting them in a pillbox. This helps to avoid medication errors and helps people take the right medications, at the right dose.
- Know the possible side effects and what to look for in case you have a reaction. If you notice anything, contact your physician.
- Set reminders to take your medications, either on your phone, an alarm clock, or with a mobile app (or ask a friend or loved one to call you at certain times to check in and help!).
“We always want to make sure people are taking what they need when they need it, and they understand the ‘why,’” says Janki. “The more we understand that the more we can find out what people really need to help them live healthier, more comfortable lives.”