In-Home Care Can Help Avoid Common Medication Mistakes

Medication Statistics

It’s no secret that seniors take a lot of medications.  A study by the National Institutes of health found that 90% of Americans over the age of 65 take at least one prescription medication, and that 40% take 5 or more prescriptions!  The same study found that as many as 55% of seniors take their medications incorrectly.  Try to avoid these common medication mistakes.


1.  Confusing Medications with One Another

Prescription medications can have similar sounding and/or confusing names.  Zyrtec for allergies could be confused with Zantac for heartburn.  Celexa, which is prescribed for depression, can be confused with Celebrex which treats arthritis.  As we get older, these distinctions can be more difficult, and more critical for us to get it right.  Often times, seniors will find the need for in-home care so that a qualified caregiver can help them take the proper medications at the proper times.

A pill box is the first step in sorting daily medications in advance.  With the onset of diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, moments of confusion can cause truly deadly conditions when it comes to medication.  The organizational aspects of the pill box can greatly assist in preventing consumption of wrong medications at the wrong times.

You can also acquire a daily medication reminder that will alert you to take your medications.  The system can also alert you when you have NOT taken your medication.  There are many now that can even TALK to you!  Your care manager can help you locate these devices.

2.  Don’t Take Too Much!

The number one cause of medication fatalities and the most common medication error is overdosing (according to an FDA study).  It’s important to realize that that you can overdose on any type of drug!  According to the FDA, while painkillers such as Percocet and Xanax are more common in the overdose arena overdoses of over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol have been link to as many as 970 fatalities in one year!  In fact, there has been a recent warning issued about Tylenol which states that a 1250 milligram should NOT be taken!

3.  Medication Interactions

When a patient and a physician don’t properly communicate with one another, medicinal interactions can occur.  Make sure you communicate with your pharmacist!  If you are in a situation where you are receiving private duty home care and you send your caregiver to fill your prescriptions, be sure to send a list of ALL of your prescribed medications so that your pharmacist can check for medication conflicts.  A simple step like this can not only save your life, but can also reveal certain interactions that may be preventing you from having a proper recovery, or may be causing you to have additional unnecessary conditions.

4.  Taking Medication the Wrong Way

This may seem like a strange point to make, but swallowing a tablet that is meant to be slowly absorbed under the tongue can create major issues.  Always ask questions of your physician and/or pharmacist if you are unsure how your meds are intended to be consumed.

5.  Food and Drug Interactions

Certain medications should never be consumed at the same time that you eat certain foods.  For example, Coumadin, a blood thinning medications, can be less effective when foods high in vitamin K are eaten.  Coumadin users should not consume high amounts of leafy green vegetables, broccoli and brussels sprouts.

Patients on cholesterol lowering drugs and blood pressure drugs should always avoid grapefruit or its juice.  In fact, grapefruit can cause potentially dangerous interactions of nearly 85 different medications because they contain a compound that affects the way medications are metabolized by the liver.

In-Home Caregivers

An in-home caregiver can be an essential part of monitoring medications.  When there is any kind of sudden changed in a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, a caregiver can notify family and physicians that a medical evaluation and a review of medications needs to be investigated.

The two best tips:

1.  Always be sure to ask your physician questions!
2.  Always be sure to notify your pharmacist of ALL medications you are consuming!

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