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MISTAKES WERE MADE: OVERCOMING MEDICATION ERRORS AND OBSTACLES

January 14, 2013

We all know many horror stories about taking medications by mistake–or not taking them at all when the doctor has been very specific about how and when to take them.  Or perhaps we know someone like a family member who was given the wrong medication or dosage while in a hospital, a healthcare facility or even at home.  Thousands of “medication errors” happen every day in our nation and there are many reasons for it.  People may:
 

  • Fail to fill or refill a prescription

  • Omit one or multiple doses

  • Take the incorrect medication dosage because of poor eyesight or just misunderstanding the dosage directions

  • Improperly use devices such as inhalers or syringes

  • Take medications with prohibited foods, liquids, or other medications

  • Or take medications that are expired, damaged, or stored improperly


For the elderly population in particular, improper medication management is a big problem.  In fact, studies show that 55% of seniors do not take their prescription drugs correctly.  This percentage is likely high because older adults often face obstacles when it comes to properly managing their medication.  However, the following tips can help you and your loved ones overcome these barriers and get on the path to better health.
 

  • Memory Loss: A major issue when it comes to medication adherence among elderly individuals is memory loss. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may forget to take their medications or even take multiple doses, having forgotten that they took the medication earlier.  Tip: Make taking medication a part of another daily routine, using automatic or electronic pill dispensers, especially those that give verbal “alerts” when it’s time to take medications.  Family members can also make up charts for the loved one to help them stay organized.
     

  • Fear of Addiction or Side Effects:  Many people avoid medication or reduce the dosage fearing some kind of an adverse side effect such as sedation, constipation, or sexual problems.  Tip: Discuss the fears with the physician.  It is possible that an alternative medication can be prescribed.  Also, consider retaining the services of regular in-home care where a trained, professional caregiver can help monitor for first signs of adverse side effects and report to others before it becomes problematic.
     

  • Vision Problems: A senior with impaired vision may find it difficult to read the directions on a pill bottle or distinguish between pills, leading to possible incorrect dosage and use.  Tip: Request medication labels in a large print size or purchase a pill bottle magnifier.  Electronic devices are also available, such as “talking pill bottles,” which play recorded messages of the instructions on the pill bottle.
     

  • Income: Seniors who can’t afford medications may split pills, cut back the dose, or go without for long stretches of time.  Tip: Ask the pharmacy about discount programs or if a generic drug or another brand in the same drug class is available at a lower cost.


At AAging Better, we can help seniors create a management plan that can improve medication management and help to increase the loved one’s quality of life.   Assistance with meds is a major service we provide to ensure our clients stay safely in the comfort of their homes rather than being placed in a nursing home or other healthcare facility.

Please contact us online or give us a call at 208-777-0308 in the Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene or Hayden areas; 208-263-7889 in the Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry or Priest River areas; and 208-784-1505 in the Kellogg, Pinehurst or Wallace areas for more information about our home care services.  We will be happy to come talk to you or your loved one about how to better manage medications to see how we might help.

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