If you're providing eldercare for your parent, I have an important question for you: Do you know all of the medications that your parent is taking? In an article at CNN.com, Dr. Jerry Gurwitz stated that 38 million elder health care patients will experience drug complications in any given year, and that 180,000 of these will be life threatening. If you want to make sure your parent doesn't become part of these statistics, here are some tips:
Learn All You Can about Your Parent's Medications
In a way, you need to become your parent's geriatric care manager and know by heart every medication your parent is taking. Make an eldercare file with a list of all medications, including each drug's purpose, dosage, and possible side effects. Also be aware of possible interactions between one or more of your parent's medications. Although your parent's elder health care professionals should provide this information to you, you might need to ask for it as your parent's eldercare advocate.
Store Medications Safely
Again, think of yourself as a geriatric care manager. Make sure all of your parent's medications are organized and stored in a cool, dry place. If your parent has Alzheimer's or another condition that requires more eldercare supervision, keep the medications locked in a secure drawer or cabinet. Make sure your parent's elder health care needs are met by keeping track of each medication's expiration date.
Get Multiple Opinions
If you're concerned that your parent is taking too many meds, ask your parent's doctor - preferably one experienced in geriatric care - for a "brown bag review." This is when you literally take all of your parent's medications to an elder health care appointment so the doctor can make sure the drugs are not dangerous to take together and to see if your parent really needs to be taking all of them. A pharmacist is another specialist that can help you with your eldercare responsibilities by reviewing all of your parent's medications. Geriatric care specialists such as these can also suggest alternative forms of medications such as liquids which might be easier for your parent to take.
Are you concerned about the number of medications your parent is taking? What tips do you have for other caregivers for addressing this issue? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our RSS Feed to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D