What are the Best Ways for Seniors to Manage Multiple Medications?

What are the Best Ways for Seniors to Manage Multiple Medications?


Adults 65 and older are prescribed more medications than any other age group, accounting for more than 30 percent of all prescribed medications and 40 percent of all over-the-counter medications and supplements. Not even factoring in the fact that some seniors have cognitive decline, it is no wonder why keeping track of and monitoring multiple medications is a real challenge in this population. Many medications look and sound alike, and it is nearly impossible to remember which pill is which and for what condition.


Almost 40 percent of all adverse drug reactions reported each year involve people over 60 years old, and nearly one-fourth of all nursing home admissions are older people who are unable to take their medications properly. Medication management has a significant impact on seniors and their ability to maintain their independence.

This brings us to the question:

What are the best ways for seniors to manage multiple medications?

#1: Keep a List of all Medications

Writing all medications down—including over-the-counter and herbal medications—
should be the first step in managing a senior’s multiple medications.

The National Institute on Aging has a great worksheet to download here. This worksheet is especially useful because it also includes a space to describe the color and shape of the medication. Because so many medications look alike, this can be very helpful when managing multiple medications.


Keep a copy of this worksheet with you for doctor’s visits and post another copy in a visible area of the home, such as the front of the refrigerator. This is an easy-to-spot location, should emergency responders ever need access to this list. Make sure to update or change the list as needed and keep it legible for all to read.



#2: Follow Directions

Seniors should always read their medication labels prior to taking them. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
Unfortunately, following directions is often not as straightforward as it sounds.


Some seniors may have issues with vision, which makes reading medication labels difficult. It may be helpful to ask for larger-print labels at the pharmacy. Always ask the pharmacist why the medication is prescribed, when it should be taken, and how it should be taken. Also, seniors should make sure they can open the medication bottle themselves prior to leaving the pharmacy. If they are unable to do so, the pharmacist will have other options to make sure they can safely open and administer the medication.



#3: Ask Questions

Some may feel uncomfortable asking questions about their medications and may feel like they are being a nuisance of sorts for their healthcare providers or pharmacists. This is not true! In fact, the National Institute on Aging suggests that seniors and their caregivers ask questions the next time a senior is prescribed a medication, such as:


      What is the name of the medication and why am I taking it?

      How many times a day should I take it?

      At what time of the day should I take it?

      Should I take the medication with or without food?

      How long before this medication begins to work?

      Is it safe for me to drive while taking this medication?

      What side effects should I expect?


Be sure to write down the answers to the questions! It’s easy to forget the answers, even for those without cognitive decline. Writing down this information makes it easy to reference and remember.



#4: Evaluate Routines and Environment

A time may come when seniors, their loved ones, and their caregivers want to explore alternatives for the senior’s current living situation. Age can make it difficult to independently manage household chores such as yard maintenance or even daily meal preparation. High-quality senior living options are available that both promote independence and ensure safety when it comes to managing a senior’s medication regimen. Exploring these options may be a good choice when looking at senior living environments.


The fact is, managing a senior’s multiple medication regimen is a challenge. It is critical to be precise, and multiple factors work against this precision—look-alike and sound-alike medications, potential cognitive decline, and simply having a large volume of medications to keep track of. Use these tips to help you or your loved one manage multiple medications and decrease the risk of adverse drug reactions associated with complicated medical regimens.



Thank You to Our Guest Blog Writer:

Francine O'Neill

Writer - Clinical Resource for Resident Care Directors at The Arbor Company


Author Bio:

With over 30 years of experience, Francine O’Neill serves as a clinical resource for resident care directors at The Arbor Company. She oversees ongoing quality improvement programs and regulatory compliance, assisting with identifying and implementing programs that enhance care delivery and service to Arbor’s residents.


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