As we get older, medications may become more and more necessary in order to maintain our health. Yet for seniors, keeping an organized regimen is much more than remembering to take a multi-vitamin every morning. Managing medications for seniors is very important, and that can often mean planning ahead, being conscious of what you eat, and actively reviewing your medication’s labels to ensure safety. Here are 5 tips you can use to help!
1. Everyday Counts!
Although it would be nice to take a day off from scarfing down pills, it’s not usually a wise decision. Doctors orders are more than just the day you receive the prescription, so taking your medications every day is extremely important to maintain your health and manage any conditions you may have. One way to be consistent with your medications is planning to take them right before another daily activity to form a good habit. Usually, it’s a good idea to take them after breakfast, especially if they can cause nausea. After that, a healthy walk can help your food digest and the medications start to work their magic!
2. Managing Medications in the Mix
With many seniors encountering polypharmacy, meaning individuals have to take multiple medications on a daily basis, it’s very important to understand how each medication will react with others. Even if you’ve taken a pill for years, or have had an herbal supplement as part of your routine for a while, always check with your doctor to ensure that your regimen is safe. Changes in your body over time can cause some medications to have different effects, especially when combined. Managing medications also means being aware how they function together, so a little research can go a long way!
3. Mind your Food and Drink
Interestingly enough, certain foods can interact with medications to have unwanted effects. Many would never expect these foods to have such effects, making it important to understand which foods can cause these interactions. Some foods to be mindful of include:
- Grapefruit Juice: Can interact with cholesterol-lowering statins, antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, thyroid replacement drugs, stomach acid-blocking drugs, and even cough suppressors like dextromethorphan.
- Green Leafy Vegetables: Due to high concentrations of vitamin K, drugs like blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin®) can be affected negatively.
- Natural Black Licorice (Glycyrrhiza): Can deplete the body of potassium while increasing the retention of sodium. This can cause medications used to treat heart failure or those for high blood pressure to be affected.
- Artificial Salt Substitutes: For seniors taking digoxin for heart failure or ACE inhibitors for hypertension, these can have similar effects to Natural Black Licorice. People with decreased kidney function should be weary of these substances as well.
These are just some of the possible food-drug interactions out there, so always ask your doctor about whether a food may affect your medications!
4. Keep an Active Journal
When taking your medications on a daily basis, a best practice can be to create a journal that details things like side-effects, when you started taking a new drug, and other important information that can help make managing medications easier. As part of your daily routine, it can be a good idea to write down when you took a certain pill, what foods you ate, as well as your activities that day. The more detailed you are with your record keeping, the better doctors will know how to adjust your regimen should any issues arise. For the best results, just have your journal beside your pill case or in the medicine cabinet to easily remember when to add to your records!
5. Read Labels Often
Even if you’re familiar with your medications and how they function, it can still be a good idea to double check the labels of each new drug you’re prescribed. Reminding yourself when medications will expire or of any important instructions is one way to avoid unnecessary risks. Managing medications is easier when you maintain a regular schedule of reviewing each of your prescriptions instead of just going about the motions. It may even be the case that your pills are changing names based on a switch to a generic brand or new dosage — noting these slight changes can save headaches and possible dangers!
Although these aren’t all of the possible ways seniors take to managing medications, staying organized can help you avoid taking your prescriptions improperly. If you have any suggestions or methods of your own, let us know in the comments below!