Senior Prescription Medications: Hoarding, Borrowing & Sharing

senior prescription medications hoarding borrowing & sharing

There’s a reason why prescription medications reminders are one of the most sought-after senior services for home care providers. Even without dementia or dementia-related diagnosis, seniors often have so many meds to take that it becomes difficult for them to track what to take, when.

Money-conscious seniors may find it difficult to dispose of “perfectly good” expired meds and opt to continue taking them, allowing their new meds to accumulate. Other times, unsuspecting seniors wind up “sharing” strong pain meds or other medications with relatives to take them directly from their medicine cabinets. These are all examples of why medication management is so important for seniors and their loved ones.

If your parents or grandparents have medicine cabinets chock-full of prescription medications and other pill bottles, take the time to organize them, secure them in a restricted access container or location, and determine best-practices for keeping both your loved ones safe.

Prescription Medications Management for Seniors

Medication management for seniors ensure medications are taken as prescribed, are not expired, and don’t find their way into the wrong hands.

Prevent medication hoarding

Hoarding takes place in multiple ways. Sometimes, it’s the inadvertent hoarding that occurs when seniors neglect to safely dispose of old and/or expired medications causing them to accumulate en masse. Other times, it happens because seniors find great deals online and can’t resist “bargain bin” prices offered online or on TV ads (both of which are suspect).

In addition to clutter, medication hoarding increases the chances of a senior taking the wrong medicine by mistake or someone else illegally getting their hands on a prescription medication that is addictive or can be sold on the black market. Either scenario is a recipe for serious harm.

To prevent medication hoarding:

  • Routinely go through medicine cabinets, drawers, closets and cupboards, safely eliminating any medications that are expired or outdated.
  • Make sure prescriptions are clearly labeled, which may mean creating brighter labels with larger print for ease of reading.
  • Remain in touch with your senior’s physician so you can keep up communication as needed around new medications, any undesirable side-effects and/or the senior’s resistance to taking a medication. You should also let the physician know if the patient is insisting on taking old meds so the doctor can speak to them about it and advise against it.

Prevent medication borrowing and sharing

Often, medical conditions create a fair amount of pain or discomfort for seniors, which paves the way for prescriptions to serious pain medications. Heavy medications, like opiates and antianxiety meds, are commonly included as part of hospice or palliative care, and they require careful monitoring to ensure they’re being used as directed, and only by the patient for whom they were prescribed.

Unfortunately, prescription opiate and pill addictions are at an all-time high so it’s important that you monitor the senior’s pain medication intake, taking them only as prescribed, while restricting others’ access.

To prevent medications from being borrowed or shared by others:

  • Keep medications locked up or in a safe. Any prescription medications – narcotics or otherwise – should be kept in a safe or in a locked medicine cabinet. The combinations or keys to the cabinet should only be given to seniors and their immediate caregivers. If a senior has dementia, the combination should be changed. Inventory should be done regularly to ensure medications are being taken as prescribed.
  • Immediately investigate missing medications. If you notice medications are missing, begin investigating immediately. If you suspect the senior is taking more than prescribed, or that cognitive decline is causing them to unwittingly overdose on meds, consider working with licensed home care professionals who can provide medication reminders as well as other services that increase support so the individual can continue to age in place.
  • Complete POA and Advanced medical directives. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to complete a Power-of-Attorney (POA) and an advanced medical directive. This helps to prevent seniors with dementia or cognitive decline from harming themselves by retaining full control of their medication prescriptions when they’re no longer able to make healthy choices. If you notice your loved one is taking old medications, is suffering negative side effects from a current medication or is not taking their medication as prescribed, a POA can be your greatest ally as you work with their physician to come up with solutions.

Read Guide for Managing Medications and Prescriptions for more tips on how to keep seniors and your loved ones safe.

Do you worry a senior loved one isn’t taking their meds as prescribed, or that they may be abusing prescription medications without realizing it? Contact us here at Home Aide Home Care. Often, daily check-ins from a licensed home care provider is exactly what’s needed to ensure medications are taken as prescribed and to keep seniors eating well, active and socially engaged – a recipe for a longer, healthier and more independent senior life.

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