Managing medication is one of the biggest struggles for the aging adult.
Everyone forgets to take their medication at one time or another. As we age, the list of medications prescribed, the number of times a day we have to take various medications and the way we take them (with or without food) can become confusing. For the aging adult, forgetting a medication dose or taking the wrong medication can affect both their health and their quality of life.
Not following the doctor’s orders in taking the right dose, at the right time is a major problem for the patient and their families. Your health care provider views this as “non-adherence” to your medication regime. This non-adherence sets the aging adult up for an adverse reaction. Even when the doctor has provided a regimen the patient consistently follows, these prescriptions may be filled at different pharmacies. You are still tasked with sorting and scheduling the medication to make sure it’s taken at the proper times. When managing medications at home it is very important to put systems in place that decrease the risks for adverse reactions.
There are a number of medication reminder technologies available. New products and services are emerging daily.
Medication reminder systems fall into a number of categories that can help with managing medication:
To determine which system is appropriate for managing medications it is important to assess the level of assistance necessary to manage the medication system at home.
For example, if the aging adult is capable of purchasing and storing all the medications and simply needs a reminder to take them, then a phone-based solution may be enough. On the other hand, if a large quantity of pills must be preloaded into categories and taken scheduled times, a pill box solution may be just the thing.
Important options information include:
- Written out schedules, with the day and times
- The weekly pill box with the days of the week and times of day. You must sit and weekly place the right drug for the right day in the right time slot.
- Telephone-based reminders systems – this is a system that is the lowest cost and requires the least amount of intervention. This service requires no special phone of equipment. Database Systems Corp. (DSC) provides a timely and accurate reminder service to help patients properly take their medications.
Aging adults or their caregivers can simply register with a medication reminder service and receive automated reminders to take their medications. The cost for the service is a small monthly fee. If someone doesn’t answer the phone or acknowledge the reminder, the system will notify a designated contact by email or telephone
The advantages of a medication reminder system in terms of managing medication:
- A Medication Reminder System may be available as part of home monitoring or safety devices such as Personal Emergency Response Systems. It's worth considering a personal emergency response system that incorporates medication reminders with other safety factors. Personal emergency response services are built around various wearable products typically sold as pendants or watches.
- Watches that provide links to a medication-dispensing pill box unit are available. If you’re considering a PERS medical alerting service, ask the service provider if they offer a link-in a medication reminder or offer an electronic pill box (or whether they plan to offer these services in the future).
There are a variety of reminder alarms on the market today. These can range from a watch that the patient or caregiver wears with alarms that sound at various times throughout the day to programmable computer software that will let people know when it is time to take the medication. some watches can be programmed with specific medication information including the patient’s and doctor’s name. Alarms can be set to vibrate or emit an electronic alarm when it is time to take a new medicine.
Patients who may have difficulty seeing smaller print may have difficulty with this type of reminder. And sometimes the elderly are bothered by electronic beeps emitted by some of these watches, so this may be a factor when making this decision.
- Electronic pill-dispensing systems. These are the most expensive option on the market, and may not easily fit into every budget. Programming needs to be done in advance and the caregiver will want to monitor the system to be certain that it is working correctly before depending on it for dispensing medication while they are away for an extended period.
Also, the dispenser may or may not be portable within the house as they often require an outlet rather than batteries. Some of these can also be remotely monitored to ensure patient compliance and to be certain that the dispenser is working properly. Remote monitoring is generally available for a monthly subscription. In order to provide remote monitoring, a phone outlet is needed as well. For seniors who can load their own pills or count on nearby caregivers to help, electronic pill boxes or dispensers with programmable reminders may be a good choice. About the size of a purse, these programmable devices combines a portable pill box and a docking station with a Web-based connection to a drug database. It is programmed remotely via the Internet. It is pre-loaded with the pills, has a large-font screen and beeps when it is time to take the pills.
- You may also want to consider more sophisticated and lockable electronic pill dispenser systems with heftier price tags. They don’t require monthly service fees and do enable loading a week’s supply of medications. These types of electronic pill boxes make the most sense at home if there are family members or home health aides to configure them.
Depending on the situation in the home, there are a variety of systems available to managing medications at home. If care giving is provided remotely or intermittent throughout the day, it may be more expensive to purchase a pill dispenser. On the other hand, some caregivers prefer the peace of mind that it provides.
When thinking about medication reminder technologies, in addition to their current needs, it is just as important to try to plan ahead for their future needs. Be sure to consider the product or service’s that have the capability to be upgraded later. Managing medication is that important to the aging adult.