The Arbor Company Senior Living Blog

5 Signs a Senior Is Mismanaging Their Medications

Oct 3, 2017 6:00:00 AM / Laura Ellen Christian Laura Ellen Christian


Many times, medical concerns and complications happen more frequently as seniors age. Many seniors require the assistance of prescription or over-the-counter medications to combat symptoms of illness or pain. Even the healthiest of seniors can find themselves at the doctor’s office with an infection that requires antibiotics. However, with the addition of medication to a senior’s daily routine, some can end up taking medicines incorrectly.

Medication Mismanagement in Seniors

According to a recent post from A Place For Mom, at least 90 percent of seniors take at least one prescription medication. Of those who take prescription medication, it is estimated that 55 percent of seniors have made a medication mistake. When you add on any over-the-counter medications or supplements that your senior loved one may be taking with their prescription daily regimen, there are plenty of opportunities for danger.

Seniors who make medication mistakes can have a variety of consequences ranging from serious to severe. Increased fall risk, increased confusion, decreased blood pressure, and even death can happen if your loved one is taking medications improperly or irregularly. If your loved one is living independently, or even with some in-home help throughout the day or week, they are at an increased risk for medication mismanagement.

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What to Look For

If you are concerned that your senior loved one could be making some medication mistakes, it is wise to keep your eye out for one or more of these red flags that could thxindicate mismanagement.

Inconsistent Refills

If you are the person who assists your loved one with getting their refills from the pharmacy, you have the chance to notice if there is some inconsistency in their refill requests. Medication mismanagement can include taking too much, or too little, of a medicine and your time at the pharmacy refill counter can be an indicator that there are some issues at home.

Memory Loss or Judgment Concerns

Seniors who have a diagnosis of dementia or other memory issues are especially susceptible to medication mismanagement. If your loved one has memory loss or judgment issues, they could be incapable of managing their own medication.

Medications that Look the Same

One of the biggest contributors to medication mistakes in the senior population is confusing one medication for another. Similar-looking medications can exacerbate this problem for even the most detail-oriented senior. If there are medications that look similar to you, this could be an indicator that a mistake could be on the horizon.

Too Many Supplements or Over-the-Counter Medications

Drug interactions can happen quickly and without warning, especially if a prescribing doctor does not know what supplements or over-the-counter medications are also being taken. If your loved one has a medicine cabinet overflowing with vitamins or over-the-counter medication, beware. Make an appointment to talk with your loved one’s doctor about what other medications are being taken on a daily basis.

Fine Motor Concerns

Seniors with decreasing fine motor skills can find opening pill packets or bottles nearly impossible. If your loved one becomes frustrated or has difficulty getting their medications ready to take, it could result in a problem with skipping doses.


What to Do Next

Managing medications at home is difficult for most seniors, especially if there are multiple prescriptions to keep track of. Without direct oversight from a caring family member or a professional, mistakes happen frequently and can be devastating. Fortunately, many senior living communities offer peace of mind through their medication management programs.

In senior living communities, residents are able to receive medications from a trained professional. This not only eliminates stress and frustration for the senior, but also keeps the senior safer and healthier than if they managed their medications alone at home.

If you are concerned about medication management for your loved one, or if you have noticed one or more red flags during your last visit, it is time to chat with your loved one about your concerns. Make an appointment with your loved one’s doctor as well and openly discuss senior living community options. Moving into a community could literally save your loved one’s life.

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Topics: Senior care, Senior Health, Families & Caregivers

Laura Ellen Christian

Laura Ellen Christian

Laura is the Vice President of Engagement at The Arbor Company.

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