Protect Seniors Against Heightened Medication Risks

begleyBy: Celleste Begley – October, 2013

Prescriptions can be the key to a longer, fuller life; but if not handled properly, they can also cause serious problems. To help us all use prescriptions properly and minimize risk, Right at Home has been instrumental in raising awareness in the communities north of Boston, as well as their own group of clients. Right at Home, North of Boston is addressing the need for medication compliance, for a healthy independent life at home, through a new Registered Nurse implemented medication management program called RightMeds.

“Educating patients is critical for promoting healthy use of prescriptions, as people tend to see many different doctors for various conditions instead of one primary physician,” said Rosaleen Doherty, Co-Owner of Right at Home North of Boston. “Seniors are at an even higher risk than most for serious side effects and other medication risks. Right at Home is trying to foster awareness to educate our clients and all seniors so they can protect themselves against these risks.”

Two out of every three doctor visits result in the prescribing of a medication, with a total of 3.5 billion prescriptions dispensed every year. Prescription education is particularly important for seniors, who tend to take more medications on average—50 percent of seniors take an average of eight medications or more regularly, according to a news release from the National Council on Aging and CVS/pharmacy. Since the risk of experiencing side effects increases with the number of prescriptions taken, most seniors have a high risk. As bodies change and age, this can cause the body to react differently, so a senior may start to experience a side effect from a prescription even if they have been taking it for years without any issues.

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), a coalition of over 125 diverse organizations whose mission is to stimulate and improve communication of information on appropriate medicine use to consumers and healthcare advises all prescription users to “Be MedWise” and practice safe medicine use by focusing on the “3Rs”: RISK, RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY. Right at Home recommends these top 10 best practices for senior medication safety:

1. Always keep a complete, updated list of medications, including prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Give a copy to family members and others who may need to know in an emergency, such as a close neighbor or medical proxy. Show this list to all physicians you see at every visit.

2. Use one pharmacy. People usually see several doctors to address different problems, so prescriptions can’t be managed through a primary physician as they used to be. Going through the same pharmacy for all prescriptions will create one more checkpoint to make sure prescriptions won’t mix dangerously.

3. Know your medications. Read the information that comes with each medication, know the purpose and be aware of their side effects.

4. Only take medications as directed. If you feel a change needs to be made, talk to the physician who prescribed it; never self-medicate.

5. Store medications in a dry place of moderate temperature; do not store in areas where temperatures vary greatly or where it gets humid (like the medicine cabinet in the bathroom). Know what prescriptions need to be stored in the refrigerator.

6. Talk to a doctor before adding a new medication, vitamin or supplement to your routine if you are taking a prescription.

7. Do not share prescriptions with others, no matter what. Even the same medication can come in pills of varying amounts, and even a small amount of difference in dosages can make a big difference to your body.

8. Dispose of all expired prescriptions, even if you haven’t used all of them yet. Prescriptions change as they age, meaning they will mix differently with your body and other prescriptions and can lead to dangerous adverse reactions.

9. Speak up—keep the conversation going with your physicians and pharmacy. Ask questions and voice your concerns. You know your body best, and when it comes to your health, there are no bad questions.

10. If applicable, use medication management tools like reminder services, electronic pill dispensers or in-home services like Right at Home to ensure that medications are taken properly. Missing a dosage, confusing pills or other innocent medication mistakes can have serious ramifications.

Right at Home is offering all families north of Boston an opportunity to have their medications managed by a Registered Nurse. Their RightMed offerings include having a Right At Home nurse fill and monitor a loved one’s medications WITHOUT having to use home care services. The nurse will also take the client’s vital signs on each visit. Right at Home can also offer the Philip’s Prescription Medication Dispense, to make sure a loved one is taking their medications on time with reminders. If the person misses their dose, Right at Home can notify the family and help their loved one get back on track. Medication compliance is a key to healthy living for seniors. Right at Home can help families manage this important task. For more information, please call Right at Home at 877-500-CARE (2273).