Arthritis, poor eyesight, and memory lapses can make it difficult for some older people to take their medications correctly. Studies have shown that between 40 percent and 75 percent of older people don’t take their medications at the right time or in the right amount.
A number of strategies can make taking medication easier. Patients with arthritis can ask the pharmacist for an oversized, easy-to-open bottle. For easier reading, ask for large-type labels. If those are not available, use a magnifying glass and read the label under bright light.
Invent a system to remember medication. Even younger people have trouble remembering several medications two or three times a day, with and without food. Devise a plan that fits your daily schedule. Some people use meals or bedtime as cues for remembering drugs. Others use charts, calendars, and special weekly pill boxes, and techniques such as turning medicine bottles upside down, to help them know at a glance if they have taken the medication.
Drug-taking routines should take into account whether the medication works best on an empty or full stomach and whether the doses are spaced properly. To simplify drug-taking, always ask for the easiest dosing schedule that’s available for the drug you’ve been prescribed–just once or twice a day, for example.
Older people with serious memory impairments require assistance from family members or professionals. Adult day care, supervised living facilities, and home health nurses can provide assistance with drugs.
Know Your Medications
Not all older people are in danger of drug interactions and adverse effects. Among healthy older people, medications may have the same physical effects as they do in younger adults. It is primarily when disease interferes that the problems begin.
To guard against potential problems with drugs, however, older people must be knowledgeable about what they take and how it makes them feel.
"We need to have educated patients to tell us how the drugs are working," says Madeline Feinberg, Pharm.D., a pharmacist and former director of the Elder Health program of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
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