Aging Parents: After a Stroke – Taking Prescribed Medications

If you find this post interesting you may want to read  Aging Parents and Medications and Thoughts on Medications and Seniors, Part I.

Anyone with a stroke survivor in the family knows how many details caregivers attend to immediately after the event. Coordinating many medications and rehabilitation services, as well as trying to surmise the extent to which independence will be restored or limited, can become a primary focus for several months. We certainly experienced this when my husband’s mother suffered a stroke, and we found that medications were the hardest to coordinate.

Monitoring Medications Post Stroke

So it was with some interest that I read an article about stroke survivors and medications in the Los Angeles Times Booster Shots blog. The post describes research that investigated the medication experiences of more than 2,500 patients  treated at 106 hospitals during the first three months of post-stroke recovery. The goal of the research was to measure whether individuals were continuing to take prescribed medicines at the end of three months and also to identify factors that might support on inhibit medication compliance.

On August 9, 2010 the Archives of Neurology published an article about the longitudinal medication research study (abstract). Researchers discovered that 25 percent of the patients had stopped taking at least one prescribed medication. According to the journal article (available at a medical library), “The assessment of and reasons for nonpersistence at 3 months poststroke are important because the risk of recurrent stroke is greatest during this period.”

Some of the Factors Associated with Higher Medication Compliance (You may want to read my post Association vs. Causation: the Differences?)

  • Understanding the medications and their purpose at the time of hospital discharge
  • Fewer medications at discharge
  • Presence of cardiovascular disease
  • Lesser stroke disability
  • Having medication insurance

To do as much as possible to prevent a second stroke, family members and caregivers needs to keep the above compliance associations in mind; however, it is critical to observe any indication of non-compliance and act to solve the problem.

After her stroke my husband’s mother left the hospital for six weeks of rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility with prescriptions for 12 medications and vitamins. In a nursing home setting, taking all these medications, some in the morning and others in the evening, was not a problem. Once she returned to her apartment, sorting the medicines by time of day was too difficult due to memory disabilities, though taking them independently twice a day worked just fine. But we persevered by hiring a nurse to come to Mother’s apartment several times a week and organize her medications. This solution enabled Mother to live in her apartment, happily and independently, for more than a year after her stroke.

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