One of the most important jobs of the medical team in a nursing home or other facility is ensuring that the patients take their medications regularly. Medication management for seniors is not always an easy job, but is, of course, extremely important. Left to their own devices, 55% of seniors don’t take their medications according to doctor’s orders. This can cause adverse drug reactions, resulting in hospitalization. In fact, each year, 200,000 elderly patients are hospitalized for this reason.
How to prevent medicine misuse
One of the causes of misuse of medicine is that many senior citizens suffer from vision problems and can’t properly read the instructions on the bottles. For independent seniors, an easy solution is to request that drug stores print the instructions in large print. Other patients may need the instructions read to them or the medication administered to them directly.
Seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s or other dementias will not remember if they have taken their medications. They may skip doses, convinced they have already taken them, or overdose since they have forgotten they have already taken their medication. Medicine should be kept out of reach of seniors with memory loss and administered to them by medical professionals or caregivers. Some patients with dementia may be unwilling to take their medicine and persuasion or disguise of the pills may be necessary.
Pills may be difficult to swallow for some seniors. Chewing, crushing or breaking pills can cause the active ingredients to be released too soon, rendering the medicine ineffective or causing the patient to become ill. A better solution is to administer the medicine in a liquid form. Many drugs which are usually sold as pills come in liquid versions as well.
Elderly patients with hearing problems may not understand doctors or nurses who explain why they need a certain medication and how to take it. Getting explanations and instructions in writing can help alleviate this problem. Extreme patience on your part may also be necessary. Speak loudly and clearly and expect to repeat yourself numerous times until the message is received.
The continuing role of medical professionals
As a medical professional, it’s also important that you pay attention to the effects and side effects of the various medications your patient takes and report to the doctor if you see anything amiss. Changes in weight and health may require a new dose or a new medication, and even if a medicine appears to be doing its job at the beginning, problems may crop up later. The vigilance of a nurse or nurse’s aide has been known to save many patients’ lives.