How Home Health Care Helped My Mom

Polypharmacy: Protecting Your Elderly Loved One From Drug Misuse

by Stanley Pierce

Polypharmacy describes a situation where a patient is taking multiple prescription drugs. Elderly patients sometimes have a hard time keeping track of all the proper dosages and timing of each one, and even caregivers can get confused.

Write Out Instructions

Memory problems can make it impossible for your aging loved one to follow a strict drug regimen. To make it easier, write out a daily instruction sheet with the drug name, dosage, and time it is to be taken. You may even want to make a wall-mounted poster or attach directions to the bottles for home health care workers. Pill organizers are also valuable tools to keep the regimen straight and be sure there is no confusion.

Get All Prescriptions at One Pharmacy

With the rising cost of medications, seniors on fixed incomes will often try to find the best price for each drug, buying from several different pharmacies. This makes it especially difficult for the pharmacist to know which other drugs the patient is taking so that there are no possible dangerous interactions. Ask pharmacies if they will price-match better deals from other pharmacies so you can keep all your prescription records in one place. Once you find a single pharmacy to use, take in all the prescriptions and have the pharmacist tell you if there are any potential problems. Have him run off an information sheet for each medication and file them in a safe place so that you any caretakers can have them for future reference.

Organize Prescription Bottles to Look for Duplicates

Elder opioid painkiller abuse is a growing problem. First, check all medicine bottles to see if there are duplicate medications from different doctors. Ask each doctor for a list of all the medications they have prescribed and get similar lists from all known pharmacies. If the lists don't match up with what the pharmacies say they have on file, there may be a problem. If you must, lock all medications away where only the caretakers and you have access to them.

Make a List and Print Out a Copy for Each Physician

Each doctor your senior is seeing needs a list of all prescription drugs being taken. Ask each physician if there are any drugs on the list that can be eliminated. When multiple doctors are involved and don't consult each other, one may see changes the other doesn't see. For example, the general practitioner may have discontinued or lowered the dose of pain medication, while the rheumatologist has the patient on a strong dosage that is causing symptoms such as drowsiness or lethargy that makes no sense to the general practitioner.

Keeping track of multiple prescriptions for your elderly loved one is complicated and time-consuming. It is worth it in the long run to keep them safe and healthy for as long as possible. Contact a business, such as Neighbors Home Care Services, for more information.