According to government estimates, each year in the United States more than 125,000 people die from a failure to properly take their medications, adding approximately $100 billion in preventable additional hospitalization, emergency room, and repeat physician visit costs to the health care system. At least 10% of all hospital admissions are a result of this problem. For seniors, the statistics are particularly alarming:
- Up to 23% of nursing home admissions may be due to an elderly person’s inability to self-manage prescription medications at home.
- 58% of all seniors make some kind of error when taking their medications, with 26% making mistakes with potentially serious consequences.
There are lots of reasons why people neglect to take their drugs properly. The most common reason is that they just forget, which seems innocent enough. The average senior takes about seven different medications (both prescribed and over-the-counter) every day, so it’s little wonder that it can be difficult to remember and keep track of them. However, the consequences can be deadly if forgetting leads to taking the same medication twice and overdosing. And skipping a dose by accident might not seem to be such a big deal, but in many cases it is absolutely crucial that doses be kept on as regular a schedule as possible. For example, missing doses of anti-hypertensives can produce a dangerous “rebound effect,” in which blood pressure can rise even beyond what the levels were before the patient started the medications.
Numerous devices and strategies have been developed to help seniors keep track of their medications. You can find some of the relatively inexpensive “reminding gadgets” at your local drugstore, devices that help you organize your pills and/or remind you when to take them with visual and sounding alarms.
Bottom line, a system must be in place that not only reminds the loved one to take the medication, but also has a simple, fool-proof way of taking the right medication at the right time. Sometimes the best “system” is having a caregiver there helping them.