It’s not uncommon for older adults to make mistakes when they are taking medications. In addition, medical professionals sometimes make errors as well. Errors in medication can mean treatment is less effective or can even result in a dangerous drug interaction. Learning to avoid medication errors is an important part of being a family caregiver to an older adult.
Below are some ways you can help your aging relative to avoid medication errors.
Know What All Medications Are For
When the doctor prescribes a new medication, make certain family caregivers and the older adult understand what the medication is for. Ask the doctor to clarify what the medication is supposed to do and how soon the senior can expect to see a difference. In addition, ask about any side effects that may occur and when the older adult should contact the doctor.
Keep a Complete Medication List
Make a list of all the medications the older adult takes. Include the name of the medicine, the dosage, and the purpose. Include any over the counter medications and supplements they use, too. Ask the senior’s doctor to review the list periodically to ensure none of the drugs interact. Remember to update the list whenever a medication is added or is no longer in use.
Clarify How Medications Should Be Taken
Sometimes seniors are confused about how medications are meant to be taken. For example, an older adult might mistake an eye drop for an ear drop. Learn whether a medication can be chewed or crushed safely. For some medications, chewing or crushing can change how the drug is absorbed.
When a medication says to take a teaspoon or a tablespoon, don’t use the silverware in the older adult’s drawer. They are not accurate for measurement. Instead, use the dose cup that came with the medicine or ask the pharmacist for an oral syringe.
Check for Errors at the Pharmacy
It’s a good idea to look for mistakes before even leaving the pharmacy. This ensures errors are caught before the senior takes the medicine. Make sure the name on the bottle matches the one the doctor said they were prescribing. When refilling a prescription, look at the pills to make sure they look like the ones the senior has been taking.
Use Elder Care
Although elder care providers cannot dispense medications to your aging relative, they can be a key component in making sure the senior doesn’t make an error in taking them. An elder care provider can remind the older adult when it is time to take medicine, ensuring they don’t miss a dose. Elder care providers can also keep an eye on the older adult to make sure they take the correct amount and that they don’t forget they took a medicine and take a double dose.