9 Tips to Better Manage Medications for Elders at Home or their Caregivers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

meds can lead to malnutrition in adults

9 Tips to Better Manage Medications for Elders at Home or their Caregivers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Providing care to loved ones in Philadelphia can be a full-time job that requires juggling many moving parts. Medication is usually a key piece of that picture, and it often falls on caregivers to ensure that medications are taken regularly and as prescribed.

81 percent of older adults take at least one prescription medication daily. Used correctly, medications are generally safe, but the CDC cautions that adverse drug reactions cause more than one million emergency room visits each year.

Allergic reactions, unexpected side effects, and human error are the common factors behind adverse reactions. As a patient or caregiver for loved ones, it is important to be aware of potential danger while ensuring that prescriptions are taken properly.

The following is a set of nine tips to help patients or family caregivers to more easily manage medications.

Know your medicines intimately

If you are going to help with medications, it’s vital you take stock first and know what you’re dealing with. Know the name of each medication, why they are taking it, and the possible side effects. Many medications have the potential for side effects. They are prescribed because the benefits likely outweigh the risk, so it’s important to be aware of any adverse side effects for signs of trouble. Make sure you understand the instructions and only use them as directed.

Ask about streamlining medications

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional if there is a way to simplify your medication regimen. For example, some medications can be given once a day in extended release as opposed to taking them three times a day. Other drugs can be taken once per day or in a combination product with multiple active ingredients that can decrease the numbers of drugs you’re taking overall. By streamlining your medication regimen, it can make adhering to a routine easier and improve your health outcomes.

List your medicines

It is important to maintain a comprehensive list of medications, with dosage and schedule. It relieves the burden of trying to remember everything. It’s also a good idea to have this information handy if there is a hospitalization or another emergency. Be sure to take note if anything new is added over the course of a hospital stay. Ask questions if you are concerned about how new prescriptions might interact.

Consistently reconcile medications

The interaction between some medicines can produce potentially life-threatening side effects, so it’s important for medical personnel to understand every medication you are using- even vitamins and supplements. Every time you visit a new doctor, or visit an old doctor after several months, bring every pill you’re currently taking. Throw into a plastic bag every prescription medicine, vitamin, herb, supplement, and over-the-counter drug that you take in a typical day. Insist that your doctor look over it all to see if there are any problematic combinations or redundancies.

Dispose of medications properly

You might not think much of having extra medicines left around that were previously used or prescribed, but having a medicine cabinet filled with medications can present several dangers. It can create confusion for elders and even their caregivers at times. This could result in inadvertently administering medications that could be harmful in combination with other medications. 

Many medicines can be flushed down the toilet, but do your research or ask a doctor if it is safe to do so before disposing in this way. Meds can also be thrown away, but it’s best to mix them with something unappealing, such as coffee grounds. Be sure to put the mixture in a sealed container before placing in the trash. Many communities also host drug take back days. You can find different drug take back locations on the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs website right here in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the greater Delaware Valley. 

Be faithful to your pharmacist

If they aren’t already, consolidate all your prescriptions to one pharmacy. Pharmacists do more than just fill prescriptions. They are specially trained in understanding possible medicine interactions, including even herbal supplements. By consolidating, your pharmacist can better keep an eye on things. Some pharmacists even receive special training in managing diseases like hypertension and diabetes and can provide counseling sessions. Finally, they are also a great resource for information on the best over-the-counter drugs.

Keep everything in one place

Place all your medications in one location. Generally, it’s better to have everything together rather than scattered around the house. Pick a place that is dark, and at room temperature (unless indicated to be refrigerated or at another temperature). Keep them safe and accessible to adults but not children. While you are at it, check each container to confirm that the medications have not expired. 

Stick to a routine

Always take your pills at the same time and place every day (unless otherwise directed by your doctor or pharmacist). You may consider tools to remind you to take them on time. Some options include:

  • Buy a pill box or other medication sorter and restock it for the coming week every Sunday (or another convenient day). Keep the pill box in your preferred location, and do not move it.
  • Link your pill taking to a part of your morning (or nightly) ritual, such as brushing your teeth, or drinking your first glass of water for the day.
  • Set the alarm on your watch, computer, cellphone, to activate when its time to take your medication and keep it on a recurring schedule. Then, you will get a reminder no matter where you are or what you are doing. 


Seek professional advice and local resources

Your doctor and pharmacist are important resources. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions, especially if you don’t understand something. Some caregiver support programs can also be helpful. Chosen Family Home Care helps caregivers follow the best practices on medication management while providing regular training on the topic.

By following the tips to managing medication for you or a loved one, you can feel more empowered to take charge of the often taxing and emotional aspects of caregiving. While the vast majority of caregivers have no formal background in healthcare or medicine, it is important to recognize that the right preparation and mindfulness can go a long way toward helping a loved one safely manage and comply with medication regimens. If you are a caregiver and need other ways to manage caregiver burden, read our blog on ways to overcome it here.  

 If you need help with assistance at home for you or your loved one, you can count on professional and quality support from Chosen Family Home Care right here in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counties of Pennsylvania.


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