We all have routines in our days, from brushing our teeth to how we make our coffee. So, when it’s time to add something new to that routine, it can be tricky to remember and maintain. The same is true for your loved one. Medication management for seniors can be a difficult process. Understandably, after decades of similar routines, it is hard for anyone to add something new. Even something as important as medicine.
A majority of aging adults struggle with their medication. Different studies show that anywhere from 50-60% of aging adults sadly struggle with medication schedules. Meaning, many of our elderly parents are missing pills or prescriptions for many reasons. Moreover, over 87% of seniors are on one or more regular prescription drugs vital to their daily health. Consequently, these numbers represent an important reality. Many of our aging loved ones could use some support around their medication.
However, we understand that this can seem easier said than done. You have many caretaking responsibilities, and medication is just one of the many ways you help. We want to partner with you and unpack some reasons why medication management for seniors can be so tricky. And offer some creative solutions to help!
For seniors, one of the biggest struggles is being able to manage and take their medication routinely. While it is common for an elderly parent to miss a medication, there are various reasons why they might be missing doses. Therefore, it can be helpful to unpack some of these reasons to understand what our loved one is experiencing. Understanding the different barriers to medication management will help you to find the best solutions for your family!
Sometimes our loved ones are experiencing physical symptoms that might be making medication management difficult. Some of those physical reasons might be a side-effect from a new medical diagnosis or a physical impairment they are still adjusting to. Some of those physical reasons could include:
Other times, medication management for seniors is difficult due to environmental reasons like loneliness or medication mistrust. These reasons are valid experiences that complicate medication management for seniors. Some of these situational reasons could include:
When a loved one is experiencing a new physical impairment, it can be hard to talk about. They might feel embarrassment or shame around discussing new challenges. Similarly, perhaps they don’t even realize that they are misunderstanding medication information.
These feelings of discomfort are common and understandable. You both could find it helpful to create safe spaces for conversation around the physical changes they are experiencing. First, a conversation might give them a compassionate space to talk about their body and any challenges openly. As a result, it will hopefully provide you with more information on how you can adapt your care.
If you notice your loved one is missing medications and you are not aware of any physical impairments, open up a dialogue with them. Perhaps an environmental reason is a cause. Like physical changes, these feelings can be hard to talk about. However, a safe conversation centered around their feelings regarding their medication could help you better understand the real root of the problem.
Opening up an emotional conversation with your loved one may feel intimidating. But, when you discover the root cause for their medication troubles, it will be easier to adopt a solution. And creative solutions are what we want to offer you!
Hearing or vision loss can be scary, especially when it comes to taking medication. If your loved one struggles with hearing or vision loss, there are ways to support them in their medication journey.
Help your loved one by making sure they hear and understand medicine directions correctly. This includes doctor’s appointments and at the pharmacy. These can be intimidating places where important medical information is difficult to hear. Likewise, confirm that they have with them their preferred hearing devices. Finally, organize family to accompany them to appointments, if needed. A second set of ears to listen and clarify medicine information could help!
Some families choose to write out medicine names, purposes, and reminders on charts in their loved one’s kitchen or bedroom. If your aging parent struggles with hearing, a clear visual system for medication reminders be helpful. For example, a simple whiteboard you update once a week could provide clarity and comfort!
Quite often, not being able to read the pill bottle is a root cause for struggles with medication management. If your loved one grapples with vision impairment, consider solutions that alter the pill bottle labels. Many pharmacists can use visually accessible medication labels for easier reading. Pharmacies can often print these labels in large print or even braille.
However, if a more prominent pill bottle label is still not doing the trick, consider a talking medication management device. You can organize your loved one’s medication safely. Then, let the device work for you throughout the week through voice technology or alarms.
Similarly, some devices even have the technology to scan and read the medication bottle. This feature can then automatically dictate medication information like dosage, name, and reactions. Vision problems are a common aging experience, and there are solutions out there to support your loved one!
As a caregiver, you deeply value your loved one’s health and wellbeing, always making them a priority. Therefore, it can be surprising or hurtful if we hear our aging parent is still feeling lonely or isolated. This does not mean you are not “showing up enough.” Instead, this is a natural experience many aging parents have as their life transitions more to staying at home.
However, it can affect their medication management. Medical experts have noticed that aging adults who feel lonelier tend to be less consistent in taking their medication. If your loved one struggles with their medications, consider opening up a conversation about how they are feeling emotionally:
If your parent expresses any of these feelings, perhaps the solution can be easily found between you two. For instance, maybe you can easily switch your visits to times when they need to take their medications. Similarly, maybe even a 10-minute phone call at med-time would help!
If your loved one’s social needs require more time than you have available, that’s ok too! Talk to your aging parent about hiring some outside help. Sometimes hiring a part-time companion for few hours a week can help your loved one’s loneliness greatly. Additionally, these hired hands can help encourage better medication habits as well.
Medication management in-home health care is a common need in every community. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local resources and ask for help!
Finances can be hard to talk about in any family. Money woes cause stress in almost every adult at some point in life. Sadly, this includes our older loved ones too. One common cause for poor medication management is financial stress. Many seniors live on a fixed income, which means new bills could bring further stress. Consequently, some aging adults, to save money, will sometimes skip medicines, split pills, or stop taking medications altogether.
It can be helpful to remember that sometimes our parents show financial stress around medications even if we think the budget works! When living on a limited fixed income, any new expense can be understandably scary. If your loved one struggles with money and medication payments have become a financial burden, there is help. Consider some of these strategies as a starting point for financial support:
As your loved one experiences new stages in dementia or memory loss, they may need increased assistance with medications. As you may have already experienced, memory loss can come in phases. Each phase comes with its unique struggles, particularly around medication management.
As a caregiver, you may find that you need to adapt medication strategies as your loved one’s memory changes. For instance, they may start their medication journey with a simple pill tracker and calendar. However, if they begin to need more support, consider upgrading your medication management technology.
There are medicine systems that can allow you to act as a remote caregiver, alerting you if a medication perhaps hasn’t been taken. For some families, in-home care may be needed as diseases progress. There are plenty of specialists and part-time nursing experts in medication management for seniors. If you feel like you might be at this stage with your aging parent, consult with their doctor for next steps.
Above all, we understand that you are juggling many things as a caregiver. Medication management is just one responsibility! Some technologies could support you and your loved one in their medication management. Continue reading as we revisit some of these technologies!
Medication management for seniors has traditionally used some form of a pillbox. Many of us even grew up seeing these on family members’ nightstands or kitchen counters! And for some aging adults, these standard pill containers still work.
However, many aging adults need more support than these simple boxes can offer. Thankfully, technology has renovated the simple “pillbox” significantly!
If your loved one is still relatively independent with their medications but could use a reminder, consider a pillbox that comes with an alarm feature. These pillboxes do not ensure the medication is being taken correctly. But, they will gently remind your parent to take their medicines at a programmed time. Additionally, most products will continue to beep as well until the box is opened.
The next step in a medication management product would be an automated pill dispenser. Usually, these products are locked units that will automatically dispense your loved one’s medications at programmed times.
Like an alarmed pillbox, these automated products will usually sound alarms or flash lights until the medication is picked up. This is a popular next-step product for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Suppose a higher level of support is needed. In that case, there are medication management products that can involve you as the caregiver more! A unique feature of these higher-tech automated dispensers is that you can get reassuringly informed when a medication has been taken, usually through your mobile device. Additionally, it can notify you when something is maybe amiss when medicine has not been taken.
This can not only help you track your loved one’s medication, but it can act as a first alert if something else is wrong. For example, a notification of a missed med could be altering you to a safety concern such as a fall. Many families find these products helpful because sometimes a simple call from is all a loved one needs to get back on track!
We understand that as a caregiver, you are balancing many responsibilities. Between doctor’s appointments, shopping lists, and family visits, managing medications too may feel overwhelming. However, support and solutions are available.
We would love to partner with you as you explore solutions for your loved one’s medication management. Solutions that might even lessen your load and give you more space to enjoy time with your wonderful aging adult.
Have any questions? Want to leave a comment? Looking for more resources? Continue the conversation below!
Medication Support is Key
Managing medications can be hard to remember for anyone. This is especially true for our aging loved ones. However, support systems and technologies exist to help your parent succeed with their medication. Additionally, these solutions could provide support to you as well in your caretaking journey.
Medication Management Solutions Benefit Everyone
Your loved one can still be well cared for, even if they are struggling with medication. There are resources, tips, and ideas on how to succeed at medication management as a family. At Beverly’s Daughter, we are here to help you create a plan for care and find creative solutions for you both.
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