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Medication Management: Tips for older adults

    • May 6, 2024
    • Wellness
    • 6 minute read
  • ArchWell Health

If your medicine cabinet is overflowing, you’re not alone. Nearly a quarter of older adults are on five or more prescription medications, while half take at least two nonprescription drugs or supplements.1

To keep up with everything you’re on — medication management is the fancy term — you have to take each medication at the right time, refill each prescription when it runs low and look out for side effects and drug interactions. Some of these can be life-threatening; adverse drug events lead to 1.3 million emergency room visits each year.2

That’s a lot to keep up with! Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Here are eight tips to help older adults manage their medications.

1. Sign up for mail-order delivery

These days, we order everything from gifts to groceries online. Prescription drugs are different. Less than 10% of prescriptions in the US are filled by online or mail-order pharmacies, although interest is growing.3

Mail-order pharmacy services offer several benefits:

  • Cost savings — Many insurance plans charge lower co-pays for mail-order prescriptions. And you won’t pay a delivery fee.
  • Call centers — Pharmacists are available to answer your questions any time of the day or night. There’s no waiting in line at the store (or waiting for the store to open).
  • Convenience — Prescription delivery ensures you never miss a refill, which helps you stay on track with your medication. And you don’t have to travel anywhere, a big plus if you have mobility or transportation issues.

If you want to sign up for mail-order pharmacy services, talk with your ArchWell Health provider or call ArchWell Health’s 24/7 care line. Once you’ve registered for mail-order delivery, your provider will send your prescriptions to the new pharmacy, and you’ll be all set.

If a local pharmacy is more your style, no problem. Many pharmacies offer free auto-refill services, meaning you never have to remember to request a refill.

2. Read the instructions

We get it; drug labels aren’t much fun to read. However, they do contain some important information, like whether you should take a drug with food — or whether you should avoid certain foods. For example, grapefruit juice can cause problems with some common cholesterol medications, including Zocor (simvastatin) and Lipitor (atorvastatin).4

So take the time to read what’s on the bottle, plus the printed materials that come with each prescription. If you have questions, talk with your pharmacist or ArchWell Health doctor. Our doctors and pharmacists are experts at interpreting all the fine print on drug labels and packages, and they can explain about side effects, drug interactions and drug schedules for older adults.

3. Make a list and check it twice

Your ArchWell Health care team and pharmacist can serve you better if they know everything you take (even if it’s just on an as-needed basis). That includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and supplements. Remember to bring your pill bottles or a list to your primary care visits. Be sure to share it with your caregiver, too.

Here’s what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends you include in your medication management list:

  • What you’re taking (generic or brand name)
  • What it looks like (shape, color, size)
  • What the dosage is (mg, mL, drops)
  • How you take it (with food, crushed, split)
  • When you take it (morning, afternoon, evening)
  • Start/stop dates
  • Why you’re taking it
  • Who told you to take it

    To help you get started, the FDA has created a handy My Medicine Record form that you or your caregiver can print and fill out.

    4. Stick with one pharmacy

    Resist the temptation to shop around to save a few dollars. The computer systems pharmacies use are programmed to spot drug interactions that could affect your health. They should raise a red flag if, for example, you’re taking a blood thinner like Coumadin (warfarin) and an antibiotic like Amoxil (amoxicillin) that increases your risk of bleeding.5

    5. Buy a beefed-up pill organizer

    Those free pill organizers at the pharmacy counter work fine if you only take a few medications once a day. They aren’t so helpful when you take two pills at breakfast, three at dinner and one more at bedtime.

    For $10 or less, you can pick up an organizer with two, three or four compartments per day. By filling it each week, you’ll stay on track with your medication management and know when you’re running low. Or, if you have several free pill organizers lying around your home, label them “Breakfast,” “Bedtime,” etc.

    6. Schedule a comprehensive medication review

    All Medicare Advantage plans must offer a Medication Therapy Management benefit to members who have multiple chronic conditions and take multiple medications.6 This benefit is a comprehensive review of all seniors' medications, both prescription and otherwise, to spot potential problems.

    Another way to make sure your medications are up to date and working well together is to bring your prescription list and all your pill bottles to your next doctor visit to review in person.

    A medication review is a part of every new member appointment at ArchWell Health. We want you to start out on the right foot and keep moving forward — medication management is an important part of that.

    7. Get your caregiver involved

    Your caregiver is an important part of your healthcare team. Ask yours to help you fill out your medication management list or bring them along to your next doctor appointment. That second set of eyes and ears can make a big difference.

    8. Rely on ArchWell Health

    Prescription drugs are a big part of healthcare. In fact, nearly 72% of doctor visits involve drug therapy.7

    At ArchWell Health, we want you to get the most benefit possible from the medications you take. We’re happy to give you all the time you need, in person or on the phone, to answer your questions. We don’t want you to feel rushed; we want you to feel better!









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    ArchWell Health, Senior Primary Care

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