The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

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Medication Management Tips for Seniors

Medication management for a loved one is perhaps one of the most challenging tasks caregivers face. More than a third of all seniors take five or more prescription medications daily, while an additional third use over-the-counter medicines. If your loved one has a chronic disease, he or she is likely taking medications at various times throughout the day.

The combination of multiple medications and complicated schedules can sometimes result in confusion, as well as incorrect dosing. The risk of adverse drug events increases with the number of medications prescribed– as a result,
older adults are twice as likely to be sent to the ER due to drug interactions.

Managing medications for an older loved one can be a complex process – being organized and developing a system are key. Frequent communication with your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist is a good idea too – especially in the beginning, or if a new medication is introduced. Use the following tips to get started.

Create a List

Begin by gathering all of your loved one’s medications – prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements. Expired medications can be dangerous, so dispose of any items that are outdated. The FDA offers guidelines on how to safely discard medications on their website.

 Create a complete list of your loved one’s medications. Be sure to list their daily medications, as well as products they might take occasionally (i.e. antacids or cold medications). AARP recommends that you make note of the following:

  • Medication name and strength (include generic name, if applicable)
  • Doctor’s name and contact information
  • What condition the medication is prescribed for (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.)
  • Dosage (how much and how many times per day)
  • Notes (include refill date, how the medication should be taken, precautions, etc.)

While a notebook works fine, you may want to consider using a digital solution like an excel spreadsheet or a medication management app. Either will allow you to share information quickly with your loved one’s medical team.


List complete; you now have a better understanding of your loved one’s medication regimen. More than likely, your loved requires numerous medications that are supposed to be taken throughout the day – which can be difficult to manage effectively. It might be a good idea to schedule a time to talk with your loved one’s doctor to explore if there are ways to simplify their medications. Questions you might ask include:

  • Are there any medications that can be eliminated?
  • Is there a different version of the medication that would limit the dose to either once or twice a day?

Medication adherence is important to managing chronic diseases, so your loved one’s doctor should be more than willing to work with you to come up with a solution.

Another easy way to simplify medication management is to reduce how often you need to stop by the pharmacy for refills. Most pharmacies offer a “medication synchronization” program that will coordinate your loved one’s prescription schedule so only one trip per month is necessary. Switching to a mail order service may also be a possibility. Most companies typically offer a 90-day supply, with the medications delivered to your doorstep. Not all medications are eligible for this type of program, so check with your loved one’s insurance company or pharmacist for more information.

Organize a System

A pill box is one of the simplest medication management tools caregivers can use. Things to consider when purchasing a pill box for your loved one:

  • Do they have a condition that limits their fine motor skills? (i.e. Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis)
  • Do they have difficulty remembering to take their medications?
  • How many medications does your loved one need to take, and how often do they need to take them throughout the day?

Most are inexpensive, and there are plenty of options available either at your local pharmacy or online. Pill boxes with easy open lids and rounded bottoms are perfect for individuals who have difficulty using their hands, while an organizer with a built-in reminder and alarm may be best if your loved one forgets to take their medications.

Another approach is a traditional pill box paired with a bit of technology. If your loved one is tech-savvy, there are several medication management apps you can download to their smartphone. In addition to providing a reminder, some apps will also alert the caregiver if a dose has been missed.

Whatever system you decide to use, think about how you can streamline the process. If you are filling the box for one week, can you purchase another and fill two? Use the list you created as a guide to ensure you aren’t forgetting to include a medication, and to help keep track of when refills need to be ordered.

Ask Questions

Another facet of medication management is understanding the medicines your loved has been prescribed, including any special instructions for taking them or associated side effects. Attending medical appointments with your loved one will give you an opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns you might have. Not sure what to ask? The Family Caregiver Alliance suggests the following:

  • Why is my loved one being prescribed this medication?
  • How does the medication work?
  • How long will my loved one need to take the medication?
  • Do I need to be concerned that this medication will interact with the other medicines my loved one is currently taking? (Be sure to have your medication list)
  • How should the medication be taken? Is there an alternative to a pill if my loved has problems swallowing? (i.e. liquid, chewed, crushed, or dissolved)
  • Are there any side effects I should be aware of? Are there any symptoms I should contact you about?
  • Are there any precautions I need to know about? (i.e. avoiding sun exposure, foods to avoid, etc.)

More Caregiving Tips

Discover more caregiving resources from The Bristal. Learn more about Understanding and Coping with Caregiver Stress and Burnout and 5 Helpful Podcasts Caregivers Can Listen To. 

>> Find More Caregiving Resources <<


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