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Medication Management: Safety Tips for Older Adults

A serious senior man uses a weekly pill organizer to organize his prescription medication.

It’s easy for older adults to forget or lose medication, especially if they aren’t used to managing multiple prescriptions. Here are a few simple tips to help them do it safely.

Start with proper storage

Losing bottles is a lot more common than people think. While some people leave their medications on the kitchen counter or by their television so they don’t forget to take them, small bottles can easily be lost in clutter. Whether you have a lot of medications prescribed by your doctor or a daily vitamin and the occasional aspirin, it is best to store everything in one place.

Proper storage is also important to keep the medicine fresh. Excess moisture and heat can reduce drug efficacy. Medline Plus recommends storing your medications in a cool, dry place such as a dresser drawer or kitchen cabinet. Make sure your storage location is also away from pets and children.

After you take your medication, make sure to put it back in the same location. Not only will this help you remember where it is, but it will also help you keep your counters uncluttered.

Remember to go through your medicine drawer or cabinet regularly and discard any expired drugs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, taking expired medicines can pose a health risk: as their chemical composition changes, they become less effective and potentially less safe.

Make a list of all your medications

Maintaining a medication list is crucial for older adults, so get a notebook just for your medical information. On page one, note each of your prescription medications as well as any vitamins or supplements you take regularly. Be sure to add dosage amounts and frequencies.

You can then use the notebook to write down any questions or concerns you have for your doctor as well as any additional instructions they give you.

Use a pill organizer

Sorting your medications in advance can be a great way to save time. While some pharmacies offer a sorting service, many people find using a simple weekly organizer great for straightforward medication routines.

Consumer Reports recommends a two-row weekly organizer to help separate daytime and nighttime medications. Larger organizers also exist to help you sort more doses. Presorting your medication also means not having to fiddle with bottle caps multiple times per day or second-guessing whether you took your medication that day.

If you need an additional way to track your medication, make a chart. Write the dosage times and days along the top and the list of medications in the left column. As you take your medication, check the corresponding box. If you don’t need to take a dose at a certain time, draw a line instead. Leave the box blank if you forget your medication. This will also serve as an excellent record to show your doctor.

Set up medication reminders

Even if you are really good at remembering to take your medication at the right time, setting up reminders is wise. Life can get busy; sometimes, we start binge-watching our favorite show or get distracted doing housework and forget to take our medicine.

The easiest way to set up a reminder is through your smartphone, which should have a built-in alarm clock that can be set to go off daily. When you hear the alarm, stop what you are doing and take your medication.

Know when to ask for help with your medication

Older adults are prone to several conditions that affect memory. Even those who maintain an independent lifestyle may have trouble remembering their medication or instructions given to them by a doctor. If you notice that a loved one isn’t taking medications as prescribed, discuss the situation with their primary caregiver.

Our Denville, NJ retirement community’s professional care team is dedicated to helping residents lead lives of purpose, engage in the here and now, and feel joy no matter where they may be in the aging process. Contact us to find out more about our senior health services today.

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