Managing medications for aging parents

Some older people face challenges with remembering to take their medications or organizing them effectively. Their adult children and caregivers may be able to help by taking steps to monitor and update medication lists.

Adult children who are actively involved can help prevent potential health complications and also provide peace of mind for their parents and themselves.

Common medication-related problems in older adults include taking too high or low of a dose, taking unnecessary medications, not taking medication as directed or at all, taking an ineffective medication, or adverse drug reactions like confusion, bleeding and oversedation.

Certain medications require special monitoring. Medications used to control pain, anxiety, mood and sleep pose the largest risk for patients as they age. Medications for blood pressure and diabetes also can be problematic if they are not closely monitored and adjusted as health conditions change.

Every person’s medication needs are different. The risk for medication-related problems increases with each medication that is added. Patients who take four or more medications are at higher risk for medication-related problems, especially falls.

We gather information about the medications they use.

Get your parents’ current medication lists from their primary care providers. Make sure the lists match the prescription containers in their home. Then talk through each medication so everyone understands what it is taken for, how often and at what dose.

We contact the pharmacy about available medication management services.

Many pharmacies offer individual dose packaging options. This is a low-cost way to help patients better manage daily medications, and it offers a way for family members to double-check on doses that may have been missed. If your pharmacy doesn’t offer this service, use a medication planner. This is a plastic organizer that stores scheduled doses of medications and makes it easier to keep on top of which medication to take and when.

Contact the pharmacy about medication synchronization.

Medication synchronization allows patients to fill most medications at one time every 30 or 90 days, instead of refill cycles scattered throughout the month. This may help simplify and organize medications.

Request access to your parent’s medical records.

If something goes wrong and your parents need extra help, having digital access to their medical records can help you get in touch with their primary care provider or pharmacist to assist.

Schedule a visit with a pharmacist.

A comprehensive medication review can be scheduled through your parent’s primary care provider’s office. You can ask for a referral during a visit or call the scheduling line and ask for a referral. During the visit, a clinical pharmacist will review your parent’s medication lists to ensure all the medications are right for them.

Talk with a pharmacist before adding vitamins and supplements.

Even though these products can be purchased over the counter without a prescription, there still are important interaction concerns with some medications. Talk with a health care provider or pharmacist before adding vitamins, herbal remedies or supplements to an older adult’s medication regimen.