Have you ever forgotten to take your daily multi-vitamin? I have to admit that between making sure the kids are ready for school and shuffling off to work, it’s often not a high priority on my list of things to do.
Now imagine you had two, three or maybe even five different medications to take each day. How often would you miss taking one? More importantly, what if you had to take them at certain times throughout the day, some with food and others on an empty stomach? Now imagine you’re 80 years old and suffer from dementia. Did this task just get ten times harder?
Millions of older Americans across the country face this challenge every day. A recent study found that more than 80 percent of adults age 57 and older take at least one prescription drug a day and about 50 percent of them regularly mix over the counter medications and supplements. The study also reported that about 1 in 25 older adults may experience a major drug interaction.
According to Wayne K. Anderson, PhD, dean of the University of Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a person taking eight medications can statistically expect at least one drug interaction problem that will negatively affect his or her health.
For seniors, proper medication management can be the difference between life and death. In fact, the Institute of Medicine reported that between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths occur annually from medical errors and studies show that more than 350,000 adverse drug reactions occur in U.S. nursing homes each year.
Issues Prohibiting Proper Medication Management
While it seems easy enough to take the medications a doctor has prescribed, sometimes financial issues prohibit seniors from following their doctor’s orders. Let’s face it. Medication costs are on the rise and cause major implications for seniors who often live on fixed incomes. Many cut their pills in half to make them last longer or simply don’t take the medication as prescribed.
This issue is further complicated because seniors often see between two and five different doctors to treat their various health-related issues. Many physicians prescribe medications or change dosages without taking into consideration what other medications seniors may be taking.
Managing each of the medications oftentimes seems like a full-time job for families, but overlooking just one dose can result in harmful consequences. But is there an easy solution?
What’s the Answer?
Perhaps the answer lies in technology. This doesn’t mean mom or dad now needs an iPhone or Android phone, but it does mean that families should take advantage of simple online tools to help medication management easier. While electronic medical records and personal health records are still being tested, there are some other technology-based tools that can ease the burden.
With the 85+ population being the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and the government having to make some difficult decisions regarding our healthcare system, we’re going to see technology play a more important role in helping seniors manage their care. It’s only a matter of time before every healthcare issue is answered with “Yup, there’s an app for that.”