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New program aims to help area seniors

Plenty of programs stress the importance of talking to teenagers about the dangers of drug misuse, but who is talking to seniors?

According to a new survey of seniors, nearly one-fifth of those taking five or more prescription medications have experienced challenges in managing their medications, including keeping track of which medications they have taken and when.

This type of unintentional medication misuse can often lead to devastating consequences. To help families have this critical conversation with their senior loved ones, Home Instead Senior Care, an in-home senior care provider in the Memphis and North Mississippi area, has launched a new public education program called Let’s Talk about RxSM. The program offers families free resources and tips, as well as insight into potential medication pitfalls facing seniors. The free solutions guide helps families better understand the potential risks associated with this growing problem and provides tools that can help older adults safely manage their medications.

Studies show that medication errors are among the most serious health risks facing seniors, and a key factor leading to long-term care placements, such as in a nursing home. However, for many, medication management is a difficult subject to broach as it is a very personal topic. Often times, seniors have been managing this aspect of their life on their own for many years and may not be fully aware of potential pitfalls.

Home Instead encourages everyone in the North Mississippi and Mid-South area to have these conversations with their families because we’ve seen that seniors’ ability to remain independent in their homes is greatly dependent on their ability to manage their medications.

If families see any signs that their senior loved one may be having difficulties — such as unintended weight loss or full medicine bottles — we encourage them to help their senior loved one, serving as a second set of eyes and ears, or ask for help.

Family caregivers can accompany their senior to the doctor, use pill boxes and medication trackers, or look into pharmacies like Simple MedsSM that package medications and vitamins in single-dose packs. Having the right medication management plan can help seniors stay independent in their homes and avoid adverse drug reactions.

Let’s Talk about Rx offers these top five tips for family caregivers to better help their senior avoid adverse drug reactions and stay independent in his or her home:

• Have a family or professional caregiver accompany the senior to the doctor to ask questions and ensure full understanding of the medication regimen

• Make one doctor the gatekeeper to manage medications and discuss any problems taking a medication, such as the inability to swallow a pill

• Use medication organizers, such as a pill box

• Use medication trackers

• Consider ordering medications from a pharmacy such as Simple Meds that provides pre-packaged doses of medications and vitamins

“Discussing medication regimens with a loved one increases their self-confidence to correctly take their prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and vitamins,” said Dr. Jane Potter, geriatrician and director of the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “This is increasingly important both as an individual ages and the number of medications they take increases. Taking more medications puts seniors at higher risk for a medical emergency from incorrect dosing or adverse medication interactions.”

Anyone can get the guide or look at other program resources by visiting the website: www.LetsTalkAboutRx.com. You can also contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office to learn how family caregivers can help seniors avoid medication mishaps, including by having a Home Instead CAREGiverSM provide medication reminders. Find a local office by entering your zip code into the search area of the Home Instead Senior Care web site: www.homeinstead.com.

Darrell Doane

owner, Home Instead Senior Care

Oxford