Tuesday, October 26, 2010

America’s “Other” Drug Problem

Medication non-compliance kills more senior citizens each year than accidents, influenza and pneumonia combined, and costs society over $175 billion annually. Hospitals, pharmacies, employers, pharmaceutical companies, managed care organizations and taxpayers all pay part of the costs.
According to a recent study, drug non-compliance, defined as forgetting to take medication, overuse of medication or altering current dosage schedules, is among the leading cause of death among senior citizens in America today.
Many seniors, particularly those taking four or more prescription drugs on a daily basis, have problems with medication compliance. Some of the most commonly cited reasons are:

·         Fear or hesitancy of taking drugs
·         Denial of the illness or need for certain medications
·         Misunderstanding the instructions
·         Belief that they've been cured when symptoms fade
·         Forgetfulness
·         Cost of prescriptions

In many cases, it’s a combination of several reasons, all of which can lead to troublesome side effects, ineffectiveness, drug overdose, and serious complications leading to hospitalization or even death.
If an elderly relative is having trouble with a complicated medication regiment, usually a family caregiver takes on the roll of organizing, compiling and managing the senior’s daily medication schedule.
The caregiver can utilize a daily planner, a pill organizer or an automated medications dispenser to help organize the schedule. Automated dispensers work well if the elderly person has trouble sticking to a regiment or tampers with the dosage, even if it has been well organized by a caregiver.
The design, method of delivery, and a variety of security and reminder features can vary greatly depending on the need.  Some automated pill dispenser systems include a locked or tamper-proof, battery operated dispenser and come with a monitored docking station, AC adapter and phone cord that connects to the machine. If a dosage is missed, the monitor will remind the patient with beeps or a phone call to them, or a caregiver.
Some models are not cheap, but with documentation from a private physician, Medicare may assist with the cost in some cases and rental systems are also available for short term use.
A caregiver or the senior should keep an updated written Medication List that includes the patient’s name and date of birth, all medications, their dosage and times for ingestion. Keeping this list handy and in more than one location will be extremely helpful in case of a medical emergency or the addition of additional medications.
Pill organizers like this can really help seniors keep track of the pills they need to take and when they need to take them. They are also inexpensive and can be bought at many stores!

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