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Top 6 Medication Problems and How to Prevent Them

For elderly people, medications can be a lifeline to good health…or a disaster waiting to happen. When doses are skipped, or too much medication is taken, the results can be deadly.

Medication problems are widespread. According to the Department of Health and Human Services:

  • 55 percent of the elderly are "non-compliant" with their prescription drugs orders, meaning they don't take the medication according to the doctor's orders
  • Approximately 200,000 older adults are hospitalized annually due to adverse drug reactions

There are many reasons why seniors don't take their medications as prescribed. Here are some common causes of medication mistakes, and what to do about them.

Vision Problems

For elders who have vision problems, not being able to read small print on labels or distinguish between pills can lead to potentially dangerous misuse.

Solution:

  • Ask for Large Print. If your parent has vision problems, ask the pharmacist for medications labels in a larger print size.

Memory Loss

Elders who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's disease may simply forget to take their medications, causing them to skip doses. The opposite is also true: if they can't remember whether they took their medication, they might take it again, causing overdose.

Solution:

  • Use a Pill Organizer. There are many types of products available: computerized pill box dispensers that ring a designated number if the pills have not been taken, watch alarms and necklaces that ring a reminder.

Income

Low-income elders, or those on fixed incomes, may not have the money to buy the medications they need. Some will split pills or cut back on the prescribed dose; others will go without for long stretches of time with no medication.

Solutions:

  • Use Generics. Generic drugs are the same medications as their brand-name counterparts, but are less expensive. Ask if a generic alternative is available.
  • Find Financial Assistance for prescription medication. Research Prescription Assistance Programs. Also, ask your pharmacy about discount programs that are available. Go to the drug manufacturer's website, to see if discount programs are available. And look for low-cost prescription savings plans.
  • Visit Benefits Checkup.org to find out if your parent is eligible for financial assistance or prescription savings plans.
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