Medications play an expanding role in health care as we grow older, we are more likely to develop chronic illnesses as we age and medications can help seniors’ live longer and more active lives.   As our population ages, the number of medications that the elderly are prescribed grows and it is important especially for the elderly to have a basic knowledge of safe medication practices.  As we age, medications affect us differently, age related changes in our organs, such as our liver, kidneys and central nervous system can cause seniors to be more vulnerable to side effects and overdose.  Maine-ly Elder Care has developed a list of medication safety tips for the elderly. 

  • First, review your medication history- be sure to gather all of your medications- prescription and over the counter medications and bring them to every doctor appointment.  This way you and your doctor can be up to date of all the medications you are on.  Also, you want to bring all your medications to any specialists you may see, so everybody stays on the same page with your medications and each doctor knows what the other has prescribed. 
  • Before adding any over the counter products to your medication schedule, be sure to first talk to your doctor or the pharmacist to see if they can interact adversely to any of your prescription medications. 
  • Be sure to take your medications as directed and know what each medication’s purpose, amount to take, whether to take with food or not, and side effects of your medications.  It’s important to know what the medication side effects are, so you can be aware if you develop an adverse reaction.
  • If you should develop any adverse reaction to your medication- DO NOT WAIT, notify your doctor promptly of any adverse symptoms you experience. 
  • Be sure to fill all your medications with the same pharmacy.  This will eliminate any confusion of what your current medications are and may even eliminate possible interactions and contraindications. 
  • Keep a list of all your current medications you are on at all times, so if something should happen, medical personnel will have a good idea of what your medication regimen is. 
  • If you are prescribed narcotics, be safe and be sure to keep them out of sight of anybody coming into your home and preferably locked up in a safe or lock box.  Unfortunately, there are people who have an addiction to narcotics and will go to great lengths to get them, including stealing from somebody who really needs them. 

Here is a brief list of those who are most at risk to having prescription medication problems:

  • Individuals with memory problems
  • People who have three or more prescribed medications
  • People who have prescriptions filled at more than one pharmacy
  • People who live alone

Maine-ly Elder Care provides nursing services to help people with medication management.   We can help with developing a list of current medications, when to take, purpose and side effects of medications. Also, a nurse can help with medication box prefills which make it easier for seniors to take their medications properly. 

Medication safety is important at any age, but is increasingly important as we age. 

Denise Stevens RN, CEO

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