Medication Safety Guidelines for Seniors

Advanced age is often associated with having multiple medical conditions that may be managed with prescription medications. Proper medication management becomes particularly important when there are multiple medications prescribed to a single patient. At Riverside Community Hospital, our physicians are dedicated to providing extensive patient education regarding medication management.

Reducing the Risk of Interactions
The changes that occur within the body increase the risk of drug interactions among senior patients. In senior patients, the liver, kidneys, and circulatory system may function a little more slowly, which affects how the body responds to a drug. A drug interaction occurs when a drug reacts with another drug, with a medical condition, or with food or alcohol. There are several steps seniors can take to minimize the risk of interactions. Before taking any new prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medication, seniors can ask whether it will interact with their current medications or medical conditions. A pharmacist or physician can advise seniors as to whether it’s important to avoid alcohol consumption or certain foods. Some foods, including grapefruit products, affect the way some medications are absorbed by the body.

Keeping Track of Dosages
It’s easy to forget whether a dosage has already been taken. Unfortunately, lapses in memory may lead to a drug overdose or to skipped dosages, both of which can be dangerous. There are many tools that are helpful for tracking dosages. Consider using a weekly pill organizer, which features little containers to hold pills for a particular day. Some organizers have separate compartments for morning and evening dosages. There are also timed medication dispensers available. Some seniors like to use a special pill bottle cap available from many pharmacies. The cap features a timer that resets automatically when the bottle is opened. This lets the patient know if he or she already took a dose.

Evaluating Side Effects
All medications carry the risk of mild, moderate, and severe side effects. Not every patient will experience side effects, but it’s important to keep track of any that do arise. If side effects become troublesome, a physician might be able to prescribe a different dosage or different medication.

Inpatient Pharmacy Services are available on a 24/7 basis at Riverside Community Hospital. Our protocols-driven system is designed to support the safety and well-being of each of our patients. You can reach a registered nurse at our hospital in Riverside by calling (951) 788-3463.

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