Managing multiple medicines in elderly persons
With an increase in life expectancy and improved healthcare access, there has been a rise in above 65 year population in India over the past 2 decades.
Many of these elderly persons may be suffering from multiple illnesses and thereby be prescribed different medications for each. Elderly persons living alone, having memory problems, low vision and unable to read find it very difficult to manage these multiple medicines. Sometimes even their family or caretakers may get confused due to frequent changes in medicines and make mistakes that could lead to unnecessary complications.
So here are a few tips to help navigate this problem if you have elderly people suffering from multiple chronic conditions in your home, These could help them to take the right medications at the right time and avoid mistakes.
1. Make a comprehensive list.
Make sure you have a proper list of all the medications with time and dosage correctly, preferably in a clear, bold font/writing, in a language understood by the patient.
This list needs to be updated from time to time and kept in an accessible place. Also remind them to carry this list of medicines whenever they visit a doctor/ hospital for any reason.
2. Ensure no overlaps.
Sometimes, when the person visits multiple specialists there could be an overlap of medications. This problem is more so in India since the norm is to prescribe trade names of drugs. So the drug content could be the same for two drugs with different names.
After any doctor's visit, cross check the content of all the pills with the respective trade names and ensure there are no overlaps. If you are doubtful make sure to speak to your family doctor for clarifications
3. Use a pill organiser box.
Forgetfulness is a common problem faced by many elderly persons. So even if they have a list and they have understood which medicines to take, they could make mistakes due to memory loss.
A pill box or pill organiser could help to solve this problem. It is also useful if some drugs look or sound similar. Label the pill box in big letters in a language understood by them.
4. Use technology
Set up reminders on their cell phones to remind them to take the medicine at the right time. You could even install special apps on their phones for this purpose
5. Have a regular family doctor.
Often due to many specialists involved in the care of the elderly person, there could be undue confusion in the medications. Having a family doctor is good because he/she will know the medical history and can help you consolidate all the prescriptions by the specialists and suggest changes.
He/she can also help help reduce dosage or remove medications that may no longer be needed.
6. Donot self medicate
Discuss with your family doctor about any new medicines or supplements and ensure they do not have any adverse interactions with the previous pills.