Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Elderly and Their Medications

As symptoms of aging or disease increase, it is likely the number of doctors and prescriptions will increase. Therefore, incidents of over or under medicating can become a serious problem in an elderly persons life. A main concern is the interaction of medications to the detriment of your loved one.

When my father visits his primary physician every three months, he places all medications in a plastic bag to take with him. The nurse always makes note of the medications and the dosage he is currently taking. That way if another physician has made any changes, Dad's primary physician is aware and can make any necessary adjustments.

Caregivers should play a vital role in monitoring their loved ones medications. Note what they are taking along with the amount and frequency. Work with their pharmacist or doctor regarding side effects and know what symptoms to watch for.

Pharmacists are highly trained in the interaction and effects of drugs. An especially good resource if you have any questions regarding possible side effects are those pharmacists specifically trained in geriatrics.

These key tips may help you in caring for your loved one.

1. Make sure all physicians are aware of current medications, including prescriptions, over the counter medications such as cold medications and aspirin, daily multivitamins, and herbal remedies.

The cumulative effect of medicine can cause side effects to show up a month or so after starting a new drug. Talk to your physician about what to watch for so that you understand when you see a new symptom.

2. With newly prescribed drugs, find out:

+ Can another drug be removed?
+ Should the drug be listed on an ID bracelet?
+ What side effects should you watch for?
+ Which side effects should you immediately report?

3. Watch dosage amounts, how often to take the medication, and whether to take prior to or after a meal. Also helpful:

+ Plastic dosage containers with the day of the week or time of day
+ Request large type on prescription labels
+ Double check the label to insure correct medication is taken
+ Keep medication in a dedicated storage area to prevent over or under usage

Physicians cannot always eliminate side effects when they are trying to address a patient’s symptoms. They will try to maintain the correct balance if they are aware of all current medications.

Use drugs with extreme caution and only for specific symptoms. Watch for symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness, increased confusion, increased agitation, falling, or the appearance of a rash. Immediately notify your elder’s physician of any disturbing reactions.

When you keep informed as to what your loved one is taking, seek further information from their physician or pharmacy when necessary, and oversee their daily dosage requirements and regimen, you play a huge role in helping your loved one live a better quality of life.

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