Lexington Health Network

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Medication management for seniors

Whether you’re a senior caring for yourself or your spouse, or an adult child looking into care options for parents or loved ones, it’s important to prioritize safety when it comes to medication management. Many seniors are on multiple medications, necessitating care and attention to timing, dosage and other details – for instance, whether the medication should be taken with food, if it tends to cause drowsiness, and if there are interactions to watch out for. The following tips can help seniors with medication management, reducing the risk of accidents and enhancing the chances of a long, healthy, happy life.

Make a Medication Schedule

It’s hard to track medications, especially once you or your parent takes multiple medications a day. Medications may specify to “take twice daily,” “take every 12 hours” or “take morning and evening,” but they mean the same thing. Sorting medications by time and dose beforehand lessens accidents that result from:

  • forgetting to take them


  • taking them at the wrong time


  • mixing up pills


  • becoming confused

Understand Each Medication

Each medication you (or your senior parent) take has its own use and its own effect. Understanding what each is meant to do will help reduce the chances of something going wrong. People are more likely to take a pill if they know what it actually does (regulate blood pressure, for instance) than if they’re simply told to take it.

In addition, knowing exactly what a medication is supposed to do can offer a clue when something is wrong. Many medications have side effects when you stop taking them; knowing what those side effects are can point to problems such as missed doses or misplaced pill bottles. Talk to your doctor or your relative’s doctor about the point of each medication, and the signs that something is wrong.

Use Mental Cues

If routine isn’t quite enough to ensure that medications are reliably taken, use extra mental cues. Tech-savvy seniors can use phone alarms, but a traditional paper planner will also do the trick. Even if you use a pill organizer, it’s also helpful to have medication bottles in sight rather than behind a medicine cabinet door. This can help jog the memory several times a day, and reduce the chances that pills will be forgotten.

If that’s still not enough, add in some extra cues. Sticky notes on common surfaces such as the fridge, a hallway table, the bathroom mirror or a bedside table can help. Daily routines also help people form automatic associations that reduce the chances of missing a dose. Try taking meds right before brushing teeth, right after dinner, right before bed, and so on.

Have Medication Information Handy

As you age, you have a greater chance of suffering from medical problems. If you pass out or become incapacitated, doctors and police must still know what they’re working with to provide the best care. Therefore, it’s important to keep your medication bottles visible, with the labels still on them. You should also have a list of doctors and pharmacies in an obvious place, such as by the phone, and carry another list in your wallet.

Managing medications is a chore, no question. Especially when it’s necessary to balance medication types and doses, things can get dicey if you aren’t careful. Luckily, creating a system isn’t that difficult. The combination of organization, information, and mental cues will help immeasurably.