August 22, 2012

You’re visiting your dad for the holidays and notice something strange: medications are piled up on his bathroom counter, many of them expired. What’s going on?

He’s not alone–according to the National Council on Patient Information and Education, between 40 and 75 p
ercent of older adults don’t take their medications correctly. So how do you make sure your loved one isn’t one of them?

1.Relate to the problem. People in every age group have trouble taking their medications properly. Take the stigma out of the situation by saying, “I could never remember to take all these pills!” He’ll be more likely to accept your help if he doesn’t feel talked down to.

2.Be observant. Look around your loved one’s home for signs that he’s not taking all his medication. Pay attention to pill bottles that have been opened but not finished, or evidence that refills haven’t been picked up on time. Also, look for signs that your loved one is having trouble staying organized in other areas of his life. Are bills piling up, or has driving become too difficult? These may be signals that he’s having trouble staying on top of his medications as well.

3.Encourage good habits. Experts know that developing a routine helps people stay on track with their medications. Encourage your loved one to take his medication just after brushing his teeth, or right before his morning coffee.

4.Use a pill box. An old-fashioned pill box is a time-tested way to maintain a medication schedule. Some pill boxes even have rows of compartments to divide up medication multiple times a day.

5.Utilize technology. Many pharmacies have automatic refills, and will even call you to remind you to pick up your prescription when it’s ready. Call your local pharmacies to find out which ones offer this service, and take advantage of it.

6.Enlist a helper. If you suspect that filling and organizing a pill box or picking up prescription refills is too much for your loved one, enlist the help of a relative, neighbor, or professional in-home caregiver that is trained to assist with self-administered medication.

7.Get organized. It’s important for anyone to know what medications they’re taking. But for the elderly, who are often on multiple medications at once, this can be no small challenge. It’s smart to have a written list of all medications available for visits to a new doctor, distant relatives, or emergency situations. This AARP medication printout is a great way to keep track of medications.

8.Talk to the doctor. It’s easy to forget to take your medications when you have no idea what they do. Make sure your loved one knows know what he’s taking, and encourage him not to be afraid to ask his pharmacist or doctor questions until he understands.