September 24, 2018

Is your elderly parent taking his or her medications – and if they’re not, what can you do to help?

These are the sorts of questions that can keep you up at night. Seeing bottles of pills pile up in the medicine cabinet, or watching your parent suffer the symptoms of going off of their meds – which could include falls, hospitalizations, or accidental overdoses… This is a lot for anyone to take on, especially when your loved one is pushing back against your efforts to help.

So, what’s a caregiver to do? Here are three strategies that may come in handy as you try to help your parents manage and remember their meds:

1.) Get a Handle on What Your Parent Is Taking

To help your parent remember their medications, one of the most important things you can do is to get a firm handle on what they’re taking, including not just prescribed medications, but also over-the-counter drugs, supplements, vitamins, and home remedies.

Now, this may be easier said than done, and your parent may not be as helpful with this undertaking as you’d like. But it’s still an important step. You may wish to try to make a working list by looking at the pill bottles in the bathroom or kitchen, or interviewing your parent. Even if this doesn’t paint a full picture, it may at least help you find out what they are and aren’t taking regularly.

From there, you, your loved one, and their healthcare professionals – including their doctors and pharmacists – will be better equipped to:

  • look for redundancies and gaps
  • consider harmful interactions between different meds
  • note side effects

From there, your parent’s medical team may be able to come up with a plan of action that might make your parent’s medication regimen simpler, safer, or more streamlined and easy to manage.

Talking with healthcare professionals about your parent’s medications may also help you and your loved one find solutions to common problems. For instance, maybe one type of medication can be discontinued, because the health issue has resolved over time; this could make it easier for your parent to remember all of their daily pills. Or, many people may wish to ask their doctors if it’s possible to spread pills throughout day to avoid taking a dozen at a time, or else find alternative ways to take their medication.

Keep in mind: Before you or your parent attempts to streamline, alter, or cut down their medication schedule, it’s vital that you consult with medical professionals, who will be able to offer recommendations and strategies that balance your parent’s needs with proper consideration for their safety.

2.) Use a Pillbox or Other Reminder System

To help your parent remember to take the medications they need to take, when they’re supposed to be taken, it helps to make sure that their medicine is readily available, organized, and in a visible place.

Pillboxes and similar medication dispensers can help with that! A pillbox is a container that helps organize medications, supplements, and vitamins by day. There are also varieties that help sort medications if your loved one is taking doses multiple times per day. In either case, a pillbox is a tool that can help sort and schedule medications, ensuring proper dosage and helping to prevent overdoses. Along with helping to organize and schedule medications, they also make pills visible and easier to see and remember.

As U.S. News & World Report points out, there are many different types of medication sorters and dispensers available to suit your loved one’s needs. For instance, there are pillbox models that are:

  • Color-coded
  • Bilingual
  • Electronic, and able to offer verbal reminders, play alarms, etc.
  • Synced up to smartphone apps, to be viewed by you or your parent

In addition to sorting out medicines ahead of time, it may help to set up other visible, handy reminders for your loved one, to prompt them to take their pills at the right time. Options might include:

  • Hand-written notes on a wall calendar or day-planner
  • Automated text or email alerts if your parent is technically savvy; you can also use smart home assistant devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo to help issue reminders
  • Calling daily with a reminder
  • Setting an alarm on a clock, computer, or other device

3.) Bring on Outside Support

Helping your parents manage medication is a lot to handle on your own – especially if you’re busy with work, school, or young kids of your own. It’s important to help your parent get the care they need, but you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone!

Don’t be afraid to look for help and support wherever you can. There are different options out there that can help give your parent the support they need, while allowing you to focus on other things – or get some much needed time to rest and recharge:

  • Coordinate with other family members, like your siblings, or aunts and uncles; they may be able to visit your mom or dad, or provide reminder calls/texts/emails when you can’t
  • If your parent’s health conditions are serious and need consistent monitoring, you may want to consider hiring an in-home nurse, or look into moving your parent to a long-term assisted living facility
  • Non-medical home care providers are a great option for many families. Professional companions are able to spend time with your loved one and assist with activities of daily living in the comfort of your parent’s home. These caregivers can provide companionship and a watchful eye when you can’t. In-home care is typically less expensive than medical care, with greater flexibility.

Looking for Further Help Caring for an Aging Parent?

Being a caregiver for an elderly loved one can be challenging. In-home care is a great, flexible way to help support your parent with companionship and care, giving them the service and attention they need, while giving you the respite you deserve.

If you’re looking for professional home care or companionship services in the Chicago area, Companions for Seniors can help! We provide companionship for senior citizens in the comfort of their own homes, allowing the elderly to live independently, rather than having to move to expensive, institutional care. We’ll help your loved one develop a personalized care plan that ensures that all of their needs (and yours) are met.

Our companions are licensed, bonded, and insured, offer driving services in the comfort of a company car, and are available on a full- or part-time basis.

Have any more questions? We’d be happy to talk! Don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us a line using our online form to keep the conversation going.