I want to Stay in my Home – Medication Management

This week’s blog continues the discussion of an aging adult who wants to stay in his or her home.  The introductory installment (on February 11, 2016) discussed the emotional turmoil that can face the adult children in deciding whether to accede to the aging parent’s wishes to stay home.  The February 18, 2016 installment discussed home modifications that may make it easier for an aging adult to stay home.  Today’s installment will discuss medication management.

One of the most common reasons that an aging adult cannot stay in his or her home is failure to take medication as prescribed.  Not to be Captain Obvious (with apologies to Hotels.com,) but compliance with prescriptions is HUGE in a senior’s attempts to age in place.  There is help with medication management.

Any one older adult can have a complicated prescription regimen for any number of chronic conditions.  “Dad” might need a blue pill, a red capsule, a round white tablet, and an oblong white tablet at breakfast.  Then, he might need two red capsules, a yellow tablet, and two different white capsules at lunchtime.  Then, it’s a yellow capsule and two oblong white tablets in the afternoon.  Then, it’s more of the same at dinner and again at bedtime.  It’s hard to keep them all straight.

The older adult (or family) should seek out a prescription packaging service.  These services can organize all of Dad’s prescriptions and package them for easy identification of the pills necessary at each particular time.  The Monday morning pills are all in one sealed packet, and the packet is labeled for Monday morning.  The, the Monday noon pills are in another sealed packet labeled for Monday noon, etc.  Dad doesn’t have to sort his own pills.  The service has done the sorting and packaged pills together that need (based on day and time) to be taken together.

Also, the individual packets are in a tear-off strip, in order.  Monday morning’s pills are at the end of the strip.  When Dad tears off that packet and takes the pills, then the next packet (now at the end of the strip) is the Monday noon packet.  Then, the next packet has the pills for Monday afternoon.  Dad’s pills are sorted so that he needs to tear off just the packet at the end of the strip.  Dad has no confusion sorting pills and making sure that he gets all of them necessary at any particular time.  The service takes care of that.  Dad just needs to tear off the next packet (just like taking a number at the DMV or the deli.)

If Dad’s difficulty isn’t sorting the pills but remembering to take his pills at the appropriate time, there are prescription reminders available (often from the same companies that provide the panic button necklace for seniors afraid of falling.)  A reminder device can be placed in a conspicuous place in the house that will give an alarm when it’s time to take medicine.  These devices generally get the senior’s attention.  (Remember how annoying was the sound of your alarm clock this morning.  It got you out of bed at, more or less, the right time, didn’t it?  These reminders work on the same concept.)

A step above the medication reminder is an automated pill dispenser with its own alarm.  A dispenser will hold all of Dad’s prescription for a certain number of days at a time.  It will dispense Dad’s pills, pre-sorted, at the time necessary for him to take the pills.

A more sophisticated version of the pill dispenser will leave the pills available to Dad for a certain length of time.  If Dad doesn’t take the pills out of the dispenser during that time, it will close up.  (Each batch of pills necessary at a particular time are in one small drawer together on one model of such a dispenser.)  The closing of the drawer prevents Dad from catching up with his pills all at once.   Some models that close up the pills not taken on time can notify a family member when Dad fails to take some of his pills.

Now, someone needs to fill the dispenser.  That someone is usually an adult child.  To make filling the dispenser easier, the adult child can get Dad signed up for one of the sorting and packaging companies.  Then the children need only to open the packets in order and place the pills into the corresponding pots on the dispenser.

With these services, medication management (and compliance with medication’s requirements) becomes much easier.  Compliance with prescription schedules will make it far more likely that the older adult can stay home.

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