As we age, medications are prescribed to help us maintain our health. On average, senior citizens are prescribed 7 medications they are instructed to take daily. That’s a lot of information and responsibility to handle! What’s worse, 10% of hospital admissions are as a result of mistaking medication.
Consider the facts. Between multi-vitamins, cholesterol medication and maybe even anti-depressants, senior citizens are at risk of becoming confused and improperly taking their medication, or forgetting to do so altogether. More than half of senior citizens taking medication make some kind of mistake that have potentially serious consequences, while many other seniors decide to stop taking their medications altogether. Most often, this inability to administer their own medication results in seniors being admitted to nursing homes.
Why Seniors Don’t Take Their Medications
Whether the doctor’s explanation was not clear, they didn’t ask the right questions, or they simply forgot what they were told, senior citizens are often guilty of not understanding why they were prescribed a certain medication, nor the importance of taking that medication. For these and many other reasons, the elderly neglect or forget to take their medications because:
- They are convinced the medication is not helping and/or working. Senior citizens are quick to give up on medications and easily convince themselves that they are better off without them.
- They take more than the prescribed dosage to increase the effects of the medication or get through their prescription faster, convinced they will “heal quicker.”
- They discontinue taking the medication due to bothersome side effects. Many medications come with pesky side effects like dry mouth or loss of appetite, which can quickly frustrate seniors and be enough to convince them to stop taking the required dose.
- They don’t believe that they need to take medication. Senior citizens tend to be set in their ways, and many think that because they have lived this long without medication, they will never need to take it.
- The cost becomes a burden to them and they cannot justify paying for their medication or decide to take it less often to cut back on the cost.
- They simply forget to take their medication due to memory loss or other dementia related issues.
How To Encourage Seniors To Take Their Medications
Use the following tips to help protect your senior citizen from making mistakes with their medication.
- Explain. Start by providing a clear explanation of their medications and why they need to take them. Include details like the name of the medication, how it works, possible side effects, the cost, and the proper dosage. It is also important to mention any dangerous interactions that could occur if the medication is taking with certain food or drink.
- Organize. Drug and big-box stores sell inexpensive medication reminder gadgets, like alarm clocks and pill organizers. Online retailers also offer medication reminders and dispensing systems that are more sophisticated and have a price tag to match. The importance of taking the proper amount of medication at the right times cannot be overemphasized, making this small investment worth it!
- Remind. Family members providing in-home care or caregivers at nursing facilities are the best and most effective medication reminders for senior citizens. Encourage your loved one to take pills at the same time each day before another daily activity, like before they begin brushing their teeth or watching a television show.
- Question. Have them question their doctor if they are confused, particularly about mixing medications. A doctor should be aware of any vitamins, herbal supplements, or other over-the-counter medications being taken in conjunction with other pills. If necessary, they will prescribe a medication that is safe to take with the others.
- Eat. Ensure that your loved one is consuming a proper diet. Some drugs should be taken with food, while others are required to be taken on an empty stomach.
Properly taking medication can help a senior citizen to remain active and continue living a healthy lifestyle.
About the Author
Ruth Folger Weiss loves writing for Valley Stream Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Fitchburg, MA.