Managing medication taking is usually straight forward for most adults taking one or two medications. However, this task can be difficult for those requiring multiple medications, with doses sometimes several times a day and some doses requiring several pills. Unfortunately taking multiple medications is a common occurrence in people with diabetes, especially among the elderly. The truth is that as we age, our memory frequently declines. This can make it challenging to remember all the details about the daily routine, especially taking multiple medications.
The following scenario illustrates the challenges that many people taking multiple medications may have…
Raymond arrived at his dad’s house and found him looking rather tired and pale. His dad asked Raymond to leave the medications that he had picked up for him on the kitchen table so he could sort them out later. As Raymond walked into the kitchen, he saw vials of medication scattered on the table. He counted them, and there were 12. Four were almost full, five were half full, the rest were almost empty, and beside them was a plate with 5 pills on it.
“I put all the pills I have to take for each day on this plate: 2 for blood pressure, 4 for diabetes, 3 vitamins, 1 blood thinner, 1 for stomach, 1 for cholesterol, 1 for gout and 6 for arthritis”, his dad explained. He stated sometimes he had pills left over at the end of the day although he was sure he took all the doses at the right time.
Like many people with diabetes, Raymond’s dad also has many chronic health problems. It is not surprising to find people in this situation taking several prescription medications in addition to some over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements and/or herbal remedies. Perhaps we can use this opportunity to learn about the challenges of taking multiple medications and at a later date we can discuss strategies to overcome them.
The following are some possible reasons that may add to the confusion around taking several medications:
- The person may be unfamiliar with the name or reason for taking the medication
- There may be a change in the physical appearance of the medication due to a different supplier
- Doses may be adjusted verbally by the doctor at an office visit without a new prescription being provided, and therefore the label does not match the current directions
- The medication may be discontinued verbally by the doctor at an office visit without a written document
- Medication adjustment may be left to the patient with instruction on some parameter e.g. adjusting insulin based on a blood glucose level.
In our next blog we will start building an inventory of “Tips on Managing Medication Taking”.