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Why the elderly must have help with medications

The doctor prescribes a medication for an elderly patient. That person's prescription gets filled and delivered. That's a great start, but the reality is that so many mistakes happen at the next stage in the process that medical experts usually assume that around 50 percent of these patients will not end up taking the medicine as it was prescribed.

This is a serious issue in nursing homes if the elderly are left to take their medications without supervision. In some cases, people forget to take doses completely, something that is an issue for those suffering from degenerative brain disorders. They may think they took the pills in the morning, but they never did.

In other cases, people take more than they should. This can happen if someone takes the medication, forgets that the dose was already consumed and takes it again. If the bottle winds up empty ahead of schedule, something is wrong.

In still other cases, people will skip doses on purpose or stop taking the medication before it is entirely finished. This is especially common when there are no obvious symptoms. For instance, a person may always take pain medication while seeking pain relief, but someone with medication for a hypertensive issue may stop taking it, not seeing an immediate daily benefit.

All told, care workers at nursing homes must be aware of these issues. They need to know what situation each patient is in and what type of help is required. If they are negligent in these duties and elderly residents suffer harm due to medication errors, family members need to know what legal rights they have.

Source: Science Based Medicine, "Do pill organizers help or hurt?," Scott Gavura, accessed May 22, 2018

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