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Managing Meds: A Key Way To Preserve Mobility and Independence

Posted September 16, 2013

Most seniors are on medications, and it's common to see an individual taking several different pills every day.  While the medications may be necessary for preserving good health, they can also lead to medical emergencies that result in death or in long-term impairments; after an emergency if this kind, a senior who may have been living independently would now need to relocate to a nursing home.

According to a recent article in New York Daily News, tens of thousands of people in the US who are over the age of 65 need to be rushed to the emergency room every year on account of the adverse consequences of medications.  These include side effects, whether from one medication or from a combination of them.  And while some side effects have obvious deadly consequences (e.g. internal bleeding), other milder effects can also bring about disaster; for instance, if a certain medication or combination of meds makes an individual feel groggy or lightheaded, they're more likely to experience a serious fall and suffer a severe injury.

In order to preserve the mobility and independence of seniors who are on medications, what kinds of preventative measures can be taken to reduce the chances of adverse consequences?

  • Whenever you go to the doctor, especially if it's a new doctor, always have with you an organized, updated list of meds and any supplements you're taking; this decreases the chances that a doctor will give you a medication that can react badly with something you're already on.  If you purchase an over-the-counter medication, always check with a physician and/or another knowledgeable, licensed healthcare professional about side effects and possible adverse interactions with other meds.
  • When you take meds, always check that the packages are labeled clearly and correctly; this reduces the chances of taking the med at an incorrect dosage or taking the wrong med entirely.
  • If you're experiencing side effects, notify a doctor immediately; if the side effects are unexpected or severe, don't hesitate to seek emergency medical assistance.
  • Call on different strategies to keep organized, such as using a clear chart of the meds you're on, their dose, and the number of times you need to take them daily.  People also benefit from pill organizers and from timers to remind them of when to take their meds.
  • Keep your medications stored properly; for instance, a medication may lose its effectiveness if it's kept in hot or humid conditions.
  • If you're taking many medications, and are experiencing mental fogginess or poor balance as a result of their cumulative effect, consult with your doctor about staggering the meds; maybe you don't have to take them all at once.
  • Make a comfortable routine around your meds.  For instance, take them while seated securely on a supportive piece of furniture with a seat tray for the meds and a glass of water (or any food you're allowed to take the meds with).  You'll be able to rest afterwards and be sure you're feeling ok before getting up and continuing with your day.

These are just some of the suggestions for decreasing medication errors and adverse consequences. Talk to your physician and other healthcare professionals about additional useful strategies.  Even if you're on a large regimen of meds, you can still preserve an independent lifestyle at home, with the proper precautions taken beforehand.

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