Understanding and Assisting Seniors
With Their Medication Needs

Women taking medicine from a pill box

(Image Credit: Unsplash)

Medication can be tricky for our beloved seniors. With multiple prescriptions to take throughout the day, it's all too easy for mix-ups to occur. 87% of seniors take at least one prescription drug. And that's not all, 36% juggle five or more, and 38% rely on over-the-counter medications. Taking medicine correctly is vital for keeping your older adult's health conditions in check and managing symptoms.

By setting up a fuss-free system and nailing down the basics, we can help seniors dodge common medication blunders like taking the wrong pill, skipping doses, or taking an extra 'just in case'. We have five top tips to help seniors manage their medications safely.

Inquire About Medication and Read the Labels

When your parent begins a new medication, asking the prescribing doctor specific questions about its use is crucial. This may include queries about the suitable time for administration and whether the drug should be taken with or without meals.

Thoroughly review the medication label to comprehend the dosages and be aware of any significant interactions and potential side effects. Labels and packaging often have tiny text, which can be challenging to read. Have a magnifying glass available to assist in reading the small print. Additionally, you can request the pharmacy to enlarge the font size on any printed materials they provide. These straightforward adjustments can significantly lower the chances of medication misuse.

Check for Medication Adherence

The health of seniors, especially those residing in places like the Riverview Retirement Community, should strictly adhere to their prescribed medication schedules. A common hurdle to medication compliance can be a tendency to forget or difficulty in managing multiple medications. To address this, it's advisable to initiate a reminder system. Caregivers have at their disposal a variety of apps that facilitate setting and tracking medication reminders.

To cater to those elderly individuals who may not always keep their mobile phones handy, these apps can be set up on senior-friendly smartwatches. Having reminders conveniently accessible on their wrist can greatly enhance medication adherence.

Special attention needs to be given to seniors suffering from cognitive impairments, for instance, dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Their medication management requires careful supervision as incorrect dosage or intake can result in severe, sometimes fatal, repercussions.

Recognize Potential Side Effects

Before your parents embark on a new medication, discussing potential side effects with their doctor is crucial. Regularly touch base with your loved one to see if they've detected any health changes since the new drug's commencement.

Certain medicines may have varying impacts on the elderly, including shifts in weight, sleep cycles, appetite, or equilibrium. If your loved one reports any side effects, ensure you relay this information to their doctor.

Many elderly individuals are on polypharmacy, taking multiple medications simultaneously, which increases the risk of drug-drug interactions and potential side effects. Early recognition of these side effects can prevent further complications, some of which can be severe or life-threatening. Additionally, identifying and addressing these side effects can significantly improve a senior's quality of life. Often, they might dismiss new symptoms as merely age-related, not realizing they're a result of their medication.

Health professional helping elderly man with his medication

Reduce the Number of Doctors and Pharmacists You Consult

A primary care provider, like a family doctor or a geriatrician, can simplify coordinating care by promoting effective communication with other specialists if you or your loved one are experiencing confusion about medication changes after transitioning from hospital to home.

Caregivers should promptly communicate with the primary care physician and the hospital discharge team. Using a single pharmacy for your parent's prescriptions is also advisable. This approach provides an additional layer of review, ensures correct dosages, and decreases the likelihood of negative drug interactions and side effects.

Discover Potential Medication Interactions

On top of reviewing medication labels, inquire with your loved one's physician about any potential conflicts between the drugs and supplements they use. The more comprehensive the information the doctor possesses, the more precisely they can identify any possible adverse reactions or drug interferences.

Remember, some medications can paradoxically contribute to the issue as much as they help resolve it. The best approach is to remove any medications that risk harmful drug interactions, aiming to streamline the treatment regimen as much as possible.


Ensuring seniors have the resources to properly manage their medication and stay on track with their dosages is essential for keeping them healthy and independent. Once a system of care is implemented for each senior in your life, follow through to ensure they consistently adhere to their healthcare plans.

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