Many families entrust the medication management of their loved ones to care givers that are not members of the immediate family. These individuals have true compassion and view their role as critical to the well being of their patients.

However, not much is written about how they perform this vital function and contribute to positive patient outcomes.

Below are some tips that provide a guideline so these care givers can manage medications for aging parents and elderly adults.

Medication management for caregivers

Tips for caregivers of aging parents and elderly adults

Caring for aging parents or elderly loved ones is challenging when it comes to managing healthcare and medicine routines. As a family member caring for an aging relative, it’s easy to become overwhelmed about where to start, or lose track of priorities. Knowing the facts about medicines and older adults will make a better and more informed caregiver. Many adult children caring for frail parents have primary responsibility for administering medicines. Yet even active older adults who care for themselves may need help in taking medicines safely and appropriately. Here are some ideas for helping parents and older adults make good use of their medicines, regardless of their age and health.

If you are unsure if the older adult in your life needs support with medicine or other healthcare issues? Ask! Don’t assume that medicine management is under control. Older Americans take multiple medicines each day, and with the proper use of medications they can live longer, healthier lives. Since older people often take more medicines than other age groups, they have a greater potential for adverse reactions to their medicines.

Checklist: Questions to decide if older adults in your life need help managing their medicines 

  • Is he or she older than 75?
  • Does she or he have multiple medical condition?
  • Does he or she use more than one medicine?
  • Does he or she have more than one pharmacy?
  • Does she or he have visual, hearing, strength problems seeing, and issues getting around the house?
  • Does she or he have memory problems?
  • Is this person no longer able to drive himself/herself or walk safely to a location where medicines are available?

If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the older adult you care for may need support from another person like a family member, caregiver or healthcare professional to take their medicines on schedule.

So where do you start?

Start with a team approach. Whenever possible, work together with your parents or the person in your care to establish healthcare goals and develop plans to accomplish them. Involve other members of the family, such as siblings. Consult with the patient’s pharmacy and provider. These conversations should include a discussion about how to manage their medicines.

Checklist: Questions to decide if older adults in your life need help managing their medicines 

  • Do they know what conditions they take each medication for.
  • The schedules for their medicines and how they take them.
  • If they feel the medicine is helping.
  • If they have fallen more often, been more groggy or sleepy, or been less hungry since taking the medicine.
  • Do they have problems forgetting a dose, identifying the tablets or capsules, experiencing annoying side effects from the medicine.
  • Do they have enough information to take the medication properly.

The checklist below is a starting place to help older parents /adults use medicines safely, maximize medication benefits and reduce the risk of side effects and drug interactions: 

Know what medicines are being taken.

Have your parents deal with a single pharmacy that can maintain records of all their medications (Rx,OTC,Herbals) and health conditions. This can help avoid a drug interaction or remind your parent to renew a needed prescription.

Start and maintain a medicine list at home

with the name of each medicine and other important details. Take the list to each doctor appointment or urgent care/emergency room visits. **The InnovaRx pharmacist can assist in the creation of this list.

Go to medical appointments with the person in your care,

if possible, to offer support.  Share any concerns or problems with his/her medicine. Be sure to take notes that you can review later. ** InnovaRx can provide a pharmacist to ‘sit in’ for you, raise concerns during the visit, and review important information with you in the comfort of the patient’s home.

Encourage the older adult to share any concerns or questions with his or her healthcare providers. Encourage them to prepare in advance of their medical appointments; write down any questions or concerns they have about a condition or medication; take notes during the doctor visit. At each healthcare visit, encourage them to ask questions. (See NCPIE’s 10 Questions to Ask About the Medicines You Take)**InnovaRx is available to answer any medication questions the patient may have, can assist in preparing for an office visit and take notes on their behalf during the visit.

Read and review all medicine labels with the person in your care to understand potential side effects or drug interactions. **An InnovaRx pharmacist can provide detailed medication counseling in the home after pharmacy dispensing, and perform an evaluation of medicines for potential side effects and drug interactions

Ask if he or she can read, understand, and follow dosing instructions. **The InnovaRx pharmacist can review each prescription with the patient in their home and increase their ability to take the medication properly

Ask if he or she needs help with developing a medicine schedule. **InnovaRx will work with the patient, care giver and family to create a schedule based on the patient’s lifestyle and daily activities to improve adherence and optimize medication benefit.

Read the medicine labels to check for potential drug interactions between any of the medicines the patient is taking, if more than one medicine is used.

Ask the older adult to show you how he or she takes his or her medicine. Try to determine if any intervention or instruction is needed to change a pattern that isn’t safe or accurate.

Advise your patients not to make medication decisions without a healthcare professional’s guidance. Suddenly stopping some medicines can be very dangerous, for example:

Watch for side effects or adverse reactions that could be confused with signs of aging

Many times people mistake undesirable effects of medicine for the “natural” effects of aging. Consider that any of the following may be caused by medication:

  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Fainting or black outs

Older parents are reluctant to tell their children if they are having problems like dizziness from their medicines. Dizziness can lead to falls. Observe your parents for bruises or discolorations on their body. This may indicate falling due to an adverse medicine reaction.

If you suspect an adverse drug reaction, talk to your parent and consult with his or her healthcare provider. Tell the provider yourself if necessary. 
Remind your parents of the importance of seeing their physician every 3 to 6 months for a check-up when using medications chronically. Have them ask the physician if any of their medicines are still necessary.

Work with your parents to find outside help when needed

Many services like InnovaRx can assist older adults with managing their medicines. Have your parent talk (or reach out yourself) to the local Area Agency on Aging, Visiting Nurses Association, or the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists to find out about:

  • A formal, in-home evaluation by health professionals of medication status and needs. ** This is what the ‘personalized’ medication management of InnovaRx is built on.
  • Regular telephone contacts with health care professionals ( to remind about and monitor medicine-taking, and reinforce positive habits).
  • Periodic home visits by health professionals to monitor progress, give advice, or teach skills related to medicine use. ** This consistent 1:1 visit in the home is the cornerstone of patient follow up provided by InnovaRx.
  • Classes in the community that teach older adults to coordinate their own care and manage their medicines wisely. **Creating patients that actively participate in their medication decisions is a primary goal of InnovaRx.

Be helpful, but don’t take responsibility for your parents’ medicine use if you don’t need to

Allow your parents/patients to remain in charge of their own lives if they are not confused or forgetful. Your interest and assistance in a supportive role is welcomed. Create natural ways to discuss medicine issues and be diplomatic.  Similar to supporting a loved one trying to lose weight or stop smoking, do not to criticize their medication use. A positive, supportive approach works best.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!