Prescription Drug Misuse among Seniors: Start the Conversation

There are many conversations that sons and daughters must have with their parents as they age. Children must plan for all aspects of their parents’ care. But one conversation that often gets missed is a discussion on the many prescription drugs that seniors often take and their ability to remember to take them. It is an issue deeply buried and rarely talked about, but one that must come into the light.Daughter_and_Dad_talking_Rx_PRESS

According to a recent study performed in 2015 by Home Instead Inc., one in five seniors who take five or more prescription medications said they experienced challenges in taking their medication regimen. A separate research study found that the majority (57%) of surveyed North American seniors are taking four or more prescription medications daily, with more than one-fourth (27%) taking six or more. Since many of these kinds and classifications of medication come with increased side effects, concern becomes heightened when seniors forget if they have taken their medication or if they have taken too much of it.

“Medication management can be overwhelming to seniors. Change is hard and scary to them, especially when it comes to their medications,” said Jillian Pickett, executive director of Home Instead Senior Care in Hollywood. “I see it all the time. Seniors are afraid to lose their independence, but medication error is the reason seniors so often end up in the hospital.”


Let’s talk

To deal with this issue, Home Instead has launched a free informational website, “Let’s Talk About Rx,” which gives vital information and help to anyone who is a caregiver or potential caregiver. The website has a variety of articles and resources which discuss ways in which family members can get the conversation started about medication management in a caring and non-threatening manner.

“The website is a wonderful resource and will help people start to talk to their loved ones about some of the difficulties and challenges they may be facing in dispensing their own medication. Communication and dialogue is key. So many people are afraid to broach the conversation, but it needs to happen,” Pickett said.

In order to deal with this problem of medication mismanagement among seniors, Simple Meds Rx in partnership with Home Instead Inc., has developed a pharmacy program which allows medications to be packaged and organized according to the needs of the senior. “The wonderful part is that the service itself is free,” said Pickett, “all the senior has to do is pay for their medication.” Medication comes in boxes that have easy to open packets, and even tell the senior what time and what day they need to take their medication. “This is not your traditional pill organizer. And the great part is that anyone can participate in this program. There is one nationwide pharmacy which runs out of Indiana.”


Unexpected health issues

The problem of medication management is not just a number on a sheet of paper or a myth, but is in fact a reality.

“I remember going out to the home of a senior who had dementia and couldn’t even balance a checkbook, yet she was the one who was organizing and distributing the medication for her and her elderly husband. In the middle of our conversation, she realized that she had missed their medication that morning. That’s when it really struck me,” said Pickett. “She was so afraid of losing her independence, but was managing over twelve medications for two people.”

Many people who care for their elderly parents or loved ones may also be asking what may be causing some unexplained health issues that their loved ones are experiencing. According to Dr. Jane Potter, geriatrician and director of the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the following are ten signs that medications may be to blame: symptoms that haven’t appeared before,

  1. a change of appearance in your loved one,
  2. full pill bottles,
  3. mobility issues,
  4. changes in reasoning, thinking or mental acuity,
  5. difficulty performing activities of daily living,
  6. trouble sleeping,
  7. change in appetite,
  8. difficulty in maintaining a home, and
  9. overall wellbeing.

Although these signs are not a definitive for medication mismanagement, they do provide much needed information to the caregiver to give to the senior’s doctor about what may be taking place.

“It’s so important to keep the channels of communication open between the caregiver and the senior. Once the conversation is started, it opens the door to have these lifesaving discussions,” said Pickett.

For more information on the Simple Meds Rx program, you can visit their website at or call them at 844- 275-6337. You can also find more information about medication mismanagement among seniors and starting the conversation at


Melissa ZelnikerPresser is a Jewish believer in Jesus who is chasing her God-sized dream of becoming a full-time writer. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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