Protonix, Synthroid, Lasix, Lopressor, Altace, Fosamax, Vitamin D, KDur, Coumadin and others … all medications prescribed for my husband’s mother in the last several years of her life. Mother took some of these in the morning after breakfast, others in the evening after dinner, and one was prescribed for just before bed. The Fosamax was supposed to be swallowed once a week in the morning right after getting up and one hour before eating. However, the Synthroid was prescribed to be taken every day in the morning an hour before eating but, in theory, not with the Foramax. Managing these meds took time, energy, and great care. Avoiding mistakes was paramount.
Medications are a blessing and a curse. They solve or at least improve many health problems, but they also tend to encourage us to solve problems by looking for a pill instead of attempting to solve a problem in other ways (I am sometimes guilty of this.). Forbes Magazine published an interesting article, “Are You Taking Too Many Medications?” which highlights the amazing consumption of prescribed drugs in the United States.
To protect ourselves and our parents we need to know and understand as much about prescribed medications as possible. The Family Caregivers’ Alliance posts an excellent and readable reference document on its website, “Caregivers’ Guide to Medications and Aging.” The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website publishes “Medications and You: A Guide for Older Adults,” another useful source of information. Learning how to manage and take multiple medications correctly challenges a person at any age.
When people grow older, chronic problems tend to increase as do the number of medications prescribed. For aging seniors, the ability to manage medications independently is an important activity of daily living. For more information on ADL’s see my November 1, 2009 posting, ADL’s or Activities of Daily Living .
However, as the number of medications accumulates, the task of taking them correctly becomes more complex. To prolong independence the medication-taking process is supported by charts, pill boxes, ziploc bags, bubble wrap, pill splitters, and various other organizational tools. Moreover, if organizing medications becomes too difficult a family can also arrange for a medication nurse who will visit once a week to organize everything day-by-day for the patient.
Mistakes are easy to make when there are so many different requirements. Some medications work best on an empty stomach, others need a full stomach to avoid causing intestinal upset. With some certain foods or alcohol should be avoided.. Keeping a list a medications and questions to take whenever we go to a doctor is important, and children of aging parents should keep copies of their parents’ medication lists in case of an emergency.
Page six of the “Caregivers’ Guide to Medications and Aging” has a list of questions covering a range of concerns that a physician can can answer when he or she prescribe a new medication. I will post these questions on another day.