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Getting the Most Out of Medicine: Solutions for Organizing Senior Medications

Medication works only when it is taken. And it is most effective when taken according to a doctor’s prescription or, in the case of nonprescription medications, label directions.

Complying with prescriptions becomes increasingly difficult for seniors as the number of medications they must take increases. The problem is magnified for seniors who have conditions that diminish their cognitive abilities.

A family caregiver or licensed professional can help seniors manage their medications, providing reminders and setting up systems that help seniors stay on track with their pill-taking.

Family caregivers and seniors themselves have a number of options for organizing medications so they are easier to take in the right doses at the right times. These include:

  • Med boxes or pill organizers, which are available in a variety of configurations at most pharmacies and health care suppliers, often at no charge. Some hold a week’s medicine, others an entire month’s. The plastic organizers are divided into compartments for each day and each dose. Some are labeled by time of day, others by meals. Family caregivers can help their loved one set up a color-coded labeling system to make it easier to use.
  • Medication blister packs, which are offered by many pharmacies. The pharmacy fills each pack with a week of medications arranged by day and time of day. Each compartment of the blister pack is filled with the medicine prescribed for that time. It is designed to help seniors know whether they have taken their medicine. Likewise, it helps caregivers see whether the senior has been taking the medicine.
  • Medication organization devices, such as Comfort Keepers’ SafetyChoice® Medication System. This electronic unit simplifies the process of organizing medications and helping seniors take each dose on time for optimal health. It provides reminders in three ways—an automated voice, a display screen and flashing lights. If a dose is missed, the system sends an alert to the Comfort Keepers Central Monitoring Center, which notifies a caregiver or other individual designated by the senior. The system has a locking storage compartment that limits access to one dose of pills at a time. The compartment can hold three to four weeks of medicine organized by a family caregiver or licensed professional.

For Senior Medications, Timing Is Everything

Solutions such as these can help prevent seniors from missing doses and jeopardizing their health—or from taking the wrong medicine at the wrong time, as some medications look similar. Taking medicine at the correct times in the correct doses is of critical importance.

Doctors prescribe medicines to be taken at certain times of the day because that is when they are most effective. One example provided by the Johns Hopkins Health Information Network at www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com is statin drugs, which are prescribed to lower cholesterol. These drugs are most effective when taken at night, as researchers have discovered that the liver produces more cholesterol in the evening.

It is a good idea, advises Johns Hopkins, to ask your doctor or pharmacist the best time to take each of your medications if you do not know. Also, do not change the timing of your medicine-taking without consulting your physician.

Timing also is important relative to eating certain foods and taking certain medicine. Sometimes, taking medications with food may interfere with how your stomach and intestines absorb the medication. On the other hand, some medications are recommended to be taken with food. If you do not know, ask your physician or pharmacist for specific directions.

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