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Tools for Effective Medication Management

Updated February 21, 2020
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Lauren Pierce

SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist

Written by Francesca Willard under the direction and review of Lauren Pierce.

Do you or a loved one have a difficult time managing your medications? Do you sometimes forget to take them, accidentally take the wrong amount, or get confused on what your doctor prescribed for you? Do not worry if any of those apply to you because there is some good news! There are many effective tips that we can learn to manage our medication.

Why Medication Management Matters

Remembering to take medications every day, as directed by our doctor, plays a very important role in working towards our healthiest self. Older adults often take multiple medications. In fact, 41% of community-dwelling elders take 5 or more prescription drugs and up to 40% of older adults do not take medications as prescribed. This can lead to negative health outcomes such as hospital and nursing home admissions. Sticking to a medication regimen can be difficult, but there are a variety of strategies we can use to help us stick to our plan.

Studies show that medication adherence strategies (i.e. taking our medications as directed by our doctor) improve behaviors in overall medication management. Not following the doctor’s prescriptions is a common cause of preventable problems such as falls and hospitalizations. It can also be the difference between good health or a significant decline in one’s health. Although medications are helpful, they can also have negative side effects if they are not taken correctly.

Tips for Managing Medications

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider if your dosage is correct
  • Use your phone as a tool to remind you of medication dosages via text, email, or phone call
  • When medications change, be sure you know what was added, dropped, or changed
  • Set out a week’s worth of medications ahead of time using a pill box or organizer
  • Write out your medication schedule and place it right next to where you store your medications
  • Create a pocket medicine list or wallet card to keep track of your medications on the go (see the “Script You Future” link in the resources section for a pocket medicine list worksheet)

Because of the way the body processes certain drugs as we get older, you or a loved one can be more sensitive to some drugs and less sensitive to others. Double-check with your doctor or health care provider to make sure the dosage, or amount of medication, is correct. Not all doctors and health providers are the same, so it is important to talk with them about medications to avoid mistakes. If you or a loved one are concerned about a prescription, dosage, or diagnosis, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Everyone is different and managing medications should be handled on a person-to-person basis.

Tools & Resources to Help

There are many strategies available to improve medication management. There are so many resources and tools to use that will help prevent unnecessary problems. You should no longer worry about confusing and complicated medication regimens.

See Adult Medication: Improving Medication Adherence in Older Adults for resources, produced by the American Society of Aging and the American Society of Consulting Pharmacy. The link includes a variety of tools and information related to medication adherence. It also contains detailed information on factors that may impact medication adherence, including condition-related factors, social and economic factors, and patient-related factors.

Additional Resources

Reference:

Lakey SL, Gray SL, Borson S. Assessment of older adults' knowledge of and preferences for medication management tools and support systems. Ann Pharmacother. 2009;43(6):1011-1019.

Related Terms

Family Caregiving, Health