Drug overdoses and missed medication are serious safety issues for older Americans. Here are some medication safety tips for keeping our loved ones out of danger.
Why medication safety tips for seniors are important
Getting a prescription from your older adult’s doctor is just the tip of the iceberg for maintaining their health. Taking medicine the way it was prescribed helps keep your older adult as comfortable, healthy, and independent as possible. It can also be dangerous to take medicines at the wrong time or in the wrong combinations.
Why seniors have trouble with medication
Some older adults, even if they’re mostly independent, struggle with taking their medicine correctly. Reasons for this can include:
- Vision problems – not being able to read the small type on the labels on medicine bottles.
- Language barriers – not able to read well in English.
- Drug names are too complex to remember clearly.
- Too many medications with different timing are hard to keep track of.
Two steps to taking medicine correctly
- Label medicine bottles with big colored dots or stickers
- Put a colored dot or sticker on the medicine bottle and cap – otherwise things can get mixed up.
- Here are colored dot options in many colors and sizes.
- For more options, get various stickers – happy face, star, bears, heart, cats, etc.
- Make sure the stickers or dots are easily differentiated from each other. Don’t use anything too similar in color or pattern.
- Match the dots or stickers on the medicine with the same ones on a big chart
- Make it easy to read at a glance, even with poor vision. We recommend a small poster size and large print.
- Customize so it will make sense to your older adult. Use pictures or words, whatever works best.
Here are a few ideas for what to put in your chart. The first row describes what we put in each column.
Explain the chart to your older adult
Attach the chart in a visible location next to the medicine. Explain to your older adult how this new system makes it easier for them take their medicine correctly with no stress.
Show them how the stickers on the bottles match the ones on the chart. Discuss what you’ve written in each box and make sure they understand the words and images you’ve used.
Most older adults welcome simple systems like these that help them be more independent. Plus, you won’t have to spend time trying to quiz them about whether or not they took their medicine.