By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy; I have no idea what medications my Uncle is taking on a daily basis or if he’s taking them properly. I have the pill bottles, do not know what they’re for and I have the daily box that is always filled when I arrive. He is 82 and seems well, just needs me for shopping and cleaning his small home. Do I need to push him for more information?
Yep! Here is the deal with medications for everyone – if you do not take them on time during the day and in repetitive days, then you are not really taking the medication that the doctor has prescribed. It may seem like blood pressure or even allergy meds show few signs of change, but inside the body there is a war going on and it needs to be put into a neutral state with medications. You can say, “Well I am old, I will stop medications and just let nature take its course.” That to sounds like a good idea; but you do not know what path nature will take you down. Do you want to NOT be able to walk or talk with a stroke? Do you want to be bed ridden or stuck in a coma for the rest of your life? Do you want to leave your home and be in a care center full time? Do you want to be on constant machines cleaning your blood or a machine in your chest to keep your heart going? Worst of all –is the diabetes side effects of blindness and losing limbs, not a pretty picture. So you can think that skipping pills or going off of a special diet for a day or just taking the pills that are easy to swallow is no big deal, but it can come back and bite you – badly.
Here is my over view of how to handle medications for yourself and seniors in your care:
- Know the medications. Either go into the doctor’s office and have them reviewed for you, or look them up on the Internet, or go to the drug store and ask for a print out of the pills and their reason and side effects. If your senior says something makes them dizzy, then you need to find out which pill does that and if that pill can be replaced with another Rx. (Note, when you find new medication ideas on the Internet, print them out and take them into the doctor on your next visit to review-they should always be open to this kind of discussion.)
- Always ask the doctor and the pharmacy if they could please use generics where ever possible. Even if the senior has a good drug insurance coverage. You save them the deductable. Plus the more money that is saved over all helps all of us when it comes to drug costs.
- Each doctor’s appointment- you are required to “bring in your medication bottles”. Since most seniors have more than one doctor this is how the medical offices keep track of the medications that can change since the patient was last in office. I found this way too overwhelming when my mother began to have over six meds and then went up to 27 a day before her passing. So I kept a list of the medications. I sat down in front of my computer and lined up the pill bottles with the information about each of them and put together a listing.
Name of Drug/Reason/Strength/Times per day/with or without food/Dr that prescribed/
I repeated this for each medication and I would add and remove as the prescriptions changed. Be sure to put the date on the paper so you know the last update. Now you have power. You can take this list into each doctor’s office, keep it in your kit for emergency trips to the hospital, check up on the pills and their purpose and most of all, you can fill the weekly pill container with morning and night pills properly divided.
- The medications all have reasons for time of day delivery. Some make you tired, some make you go to the bathroom, some make you dizzy, hungry or up energy. If you take them as the doctor advises then your body will respond in the proper manner at the right time. And if you have side effects with a new drug, it can be address from the get go.
- Side effects are nothing to ignore. They can really get a rolling start and change your life. People coming out of heart attacks can have big problems with their bladder control that means that their drugs need regulation and it is a hard thing to do. But it can be done. Some medications can make you feel more emotional than normal, dizzy or actually give you a rash or make you sick to your stomach. All of the side effects are listed on each new drug. But if you wonder about them, call into your pharmacist and they will review the problem with you and advise you on another drug to suggest to your doctor, or to assure you that the side effects usually go away in a couple of days or so. This information will keep your return visits to the doctor down to when you need to have the drug Rx changed or updated. Ask your doctor if all medications can be geared to twice a day, so memory is not challenged with seniors living on their own.
- Emotional drugs can be hard on those who take them. They can have very difficult side effects and the patient does not want to wade through the time to make changes. We all understand that feeling odd inside of our body or our heads is a terrible challenge, but taking drugs for high end emotional problems is paramount to wellness. So as a family care giver you need to keep on top of this and keep returning to the prescribing doctor with your list of the senior’s complaints until he can find a mixture of medications that fit their needs.
- Journal the drugs and the senior’s behavior and daily feelings. There should be a spiral notebook in the care area where you can check off the daily drugs, food, mood and physical ability of the senior on a daily basis. If you only do it every three days, that is better than nothing. This way the doctor will see that when pills were forgotten the breathing went down, the walk was staggered, or the emotions were more on edge. This is the stuff that is needed to keep anyone taking more than a couple of medications informed. This is how a doctor will treat and be thrilled at the information. They will thank you and give medication changes in a more effective way with this type of information.
- Cannot afford medications? There are ways around this with help. All drug companies have special services for those that are on a budget too tight for medication spending. Ask your doctor about this and they will hook you up with the different services available. You can turn to your own state human and senior services offices and get the senior on their program for financial or medical assistance. This is provided in each state, they have different rules for each state. But basically it can span a lot of things, it can give the senior food stamps only, or medical and drug coverage, or pay for care givers. It goes on and on and it is decided on the income of the senior and the spouse. Do not think you have to give up your home for this service that is not true. Veteran’s services are also there for those that have served. I am talking about served, not about retired only. My husband was in only three years and he is now receiving help from the Veteran’s for his dementia. Always check out the available services for all seniors it makes good care sense. Last is Medicare that has “D” coverage that will help with medication coverage. This is also inserted into your insurance coverage and you need to know that twice a year you can make Medicare supplemental insurance changes in the spring and fall. There is no problem changing during those times, but the rest of the year, you need to stay in the insurance that you currently have or pay a fee.
- The actual pill bottle can be coded to a color for couples that live together and have lots of meds. Hard to keep track so this is an easy solution. You can ask and sign for Easy Open bottles. Know that those bottles have to be kept away from your young grand children. I keep all of George’s medication bottles in a basket on a high shelf. Once a week I refill the medications into his weekly dispenser and then order whatever I need to keep the pills properly stocked. It is always less expensive to order three months of an Rx. So ask your doctor to write one month to try the medication and then ask him for a 90 days refill Rx if the medication is to be used over a long period of time.
- Do not be afraid to change your medications to another drug store. They have services now that ship pills out to you instead of having family pick them up at the store. They have computer services that automatically refill the drugs and call you when they are available. They have lots of nationwide services that will fill the order in any state if the senior visits family or travels. They also have services that provide breathing, diabetes and other ongoing conditions with all of their medications and services needed, by mail. You can also get many items ordered by your physician in prescription form that are not just pills. That would be bladder control products, special dietary supplements, breathing machines, oxygen, walking and bathing assistance products. This all depends on what Medicare, supplement or regular insurance companies will cover. So ASK – when the doctor says you need something to care for your health, ask him if you can get an Rx for that so it is covered by your insurance. They are there to help you, but they cannot guess at each patients needs.
My husband is a dementia/Alzheimer’s condition patient. He shows such a difference when he has his medication on time for four or more days in a row. It is like night and day. But with dementia it is hard for us both to keep on top of the pills. Sometimes we skip an intake for morning or night. We have learned to just ignore it and not take the night before pills with the morning of – pills. But this error means that my husband may get diarrhea, feel extra dizzy or have real memory or emotional challenges for a couple of days. That means that his brain cells are dropping and he is going backwards not forwards in his fight against Alzheimer’s continued attack on his brain. We try hard, but things happen. When they do we regroup and try harder – we feel lucky that there is medications that make his condition better and we are dedicated to keeping him alert and active as long as possible. It is the quality of life, not the length of life that we feel is important. That is why taking medications on time every day is paramount in elder care.
Thank you for your email please do send your questions to me. You will find the email button on my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com and you will also find my on demand radio shows talking about senior care issues. If you found these tips helpful, I have a workbook for those of you that are giving care to a senior called Senior Care Givers Workbook 101 – It is a step by step of how to give good care to seniors.
Blessings on your day, francy