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Medication Management

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Attacking Accidental Overdoses
By Gary Barg, Editor-in-Chief

A growing concern for family caregivers is the possibility of a loved one’s accidental overdose. This is an issue I hear about with alarming frequency as we travel the country on our Fearless Caregiver Conference tour. If nothing else, the statistics bear out the potential for danger to our loved ones.

Older women consume 60 percent of all prescription and over-the-counter medications. The number of prescriptions written for older adults averages 15 per person per year and eighty-three percent of people over 65 are taking prescription medications. With 15 medications to take on a regular basis, accidental overdose would be a problem for anyone, but for many of our loved ones, the risks are increased by memory loss, hearing difficulties and low vision.

It is vitally important that as caregivers, we pay attention to the potential for an accidental overdose by a loved one:

  • Pay attention for any changes in their speech patterns, mental acuity, physical strength, or levels of depression and confusion

  • Regularly check the medicine chest and refrigerator for medication usage patterns, expiration dates and to ensure of timely refills

  • Take all medications to primary physician or pharmacist to check for appropriateness

  • Use medication management tool such as pill bottles with alarms, “dosettes” which store medications by usage, electronic pill disbursement systems, or ask your pharmacist about blister packing the dosages

When discussing these concerns with your loved ones, remember that your most effective weapons against accidental overdose are respect and understanding. Successful medication management works best when you work as a team.


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