pill bottle

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Staying on schedule can be difficult for older adults who might need several types of medicine each day. This isn’t an uncommon situation. Research shows that 41% of older adults juggle five or more medications every day. Added to that are any over-the-counter medicines or health supplements the senior might be taking. It’s easy to see why a senior might run into problems.

A few of the most common problems older adults have when managing medications are:

  • Forgetting to take their medication
  • Remembering to take medicine on time and as prescribed
  • Reading small print on the medication bottle
  • Accidentally taking too much or too little of a medication
  • Forgetting to have a prescription refilled

Mistakes like these can have serious consequences. In fact, medication errors are a leading cause of hospital emergency visits and hospitalizations among seniors. According to the Institute of Medicine, 770,000 adults end up in the hospital each year because of a medication error.

One of the best ways to stay safe or to keep a senior loved one safe is by getting organized and utilizing a medication reminder system.

1) Weekly pill organizer

If your senior loved one takes only two or three daily medications, they may be able to use a simple and inexpensive weekly pill organizer. Most have space for morning and afternoon doses. You can assist your older family member with refilling the box once a week. This system also helps you recognize when a prescription is getting low and needs to be refilled.

2) Electronic pill dispensers

These pill dispensers use technology to help a senior stay on track with their medication. Some sound an alert or flash a light at dosage time. You can even find systems that will text a contact person if a dosage is missed.

3) Medication apps

Today’s seniors are increasingly comfortable with technology and cell phone apps. These provide even more options for managing medication. A few apps to consider are Mango Health, Dosecast, and MediSafe.

4) Blister packs

Another option to consider is a blister pack. Most pharmacies will set up client medications in bubble packs on a punch card. Medication dosages are grouped by the time they should be taken. When it is time to take a dosage, the older adult just pushes the pill through the back of the blister pack. You can combine this with a reminder app or phone call reminder if you fear your loved one will forget to take a dosage.

One final suggestion that will help keep an older adult safe is to make sure medications that are no longer needed are safely disposed of. That eliminates the risk the senior will accidentally take it.

A quick word of caution, however, about how you should be disposing of unneeded medication. Not everything is safe to throw away or flush down the toilet. Visit The Food & Drug Administration's website for advice on safely getting rid of medication.

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