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Seniors and their Medications

Just the other day I received a request from a pharmacy technician who fills in at our store now and again.  He is now in nursing school and in his pharmacology class they were tasked with coming up with useful ways of helping teaching seniors medication adherence as well as helping them increase their understanding of their medications.  He asked me if I had any specific tools I use with senior patients to fulfill these specific needs.

This just happens to be one of my favorite topics and yes, I do have some favorite tools I use.  Importantly, each scenario has its own specific needs; however, with a little thought I was able to come up with my top 5 or 6 criteria in each section.

Helping seniors take their medications:

  1. First, it is super important to help folks decrease the number of times per day they take pills.  Most seniors, when I talk with them, spread their pills out to 6 or 7 times per day (before and after each meal, bedtime, nap time, or a multitude of other specific situations.)  Whenever possible, I like to help them decrease the number of dosing times to 3 per day at most, sometimes it has to be 4 and sometimes we can get it down to 2.  We take some time and look at everything and discuss what can be given together.  Often the senior has some misconstrued conception that you can’t take this pill with that pill. In this situation, simple education goes a long way to helping medication adherence.
  2. Create a ONE PAGE Actionable Med List (personal medication record) and help them fill it out. Here is a link to a Pharmacy Times article I wrote with a simple to use Personal Medication Record.  Assure they understand how to use it.
  3. Help the senior pick out useable pill box.  Show them all the options and see what one they like and make sure they know how to use it.  I will even ask them to bring it in and show me what it looks like when it is filled up.
  4. Make sure they fully understand what to do if they miss a dose.
  5. Most importantly, assure that the senior understands they are not to guess with their medications.  If they have a question, encourage them to call their pharmacist or doctor.  Quite often seniors feel like they don’t want to bother their pharmacist with questions.  They need to know and understand that we work for them and are a resource.

Helping seniors understand their medications:

  1. Before beginning a discussion, you need to evaluate the patient and understand any specific barriers to counseling they may have such as a challenged education level, specific religious beliefs, language understanding, social concerns, eyesight problems, speech problems, stigmas, or any other concerns. Your counseling will change for each patient as you uncover different barriers. There is absolutely not a one-size-fits-all counseling method.  Each patient gets their own custom built counseling session.
  2. At the basic level, senior patients should have a one word answer to why they are taking each medication, i.e. “what is it for?” When I am counseling a patient, while preparing their personal medication record, I will write the indication on the record, next to the medication.  At this point, I have the senior patient make sure they are able to match up the indication to the medication name.
  3. As we are completing the personal medication record, I will have them explain to how they take their medication and show them how that fits onto the record. Next, it is important that they can verbalize what they do if they miss a dose.
  4. Ask them if they know what to look for to tell if the medication is working or if it is not working. This is a great teaching moment to discuss how their disease states are improving or not improving.
  5. Then, based on the barriers we talked about, figure out how much more information you think they can handle.  Give them a couple of the most significant side effects and let them know what they should do if they experience these side effects.  Then, ask them what side effects they are going to look for and what they will do about them if they have them.

This is a lot of words for a senior to take in and it is extremely important to encourage the method of Keep It Simple with senior patients.  Understand their specific barriers, provide information, then have them TEACH IT BACK TO YOU.


Read the Original Article at: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/steve-leuck-pharmd/2017/09/tips-for-helping-seniors-with-their-medications


  • Bronwyn December 31, 2017 3:43 pm

    This is very helpful! Great idea to break it down this way for us and them.

    • Steve Leuck March 8, 2018 11:07 pm

      Bronwyn, thank you for the thoughtful reply!

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