April 15, 2008

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Medication Madness

The combined number of pill bottles on my parents’ nightstand totaled 28 when laid end to end. That did not include any repeats – but represented the sum of all the heart, pain (multiple types), ulcer, bone, cholesterol and blood pressure medications, plus water pills and all the rest. They did NOT include all the over-the-counter products, including an array of ointments, sleeping aids, more drugs for pain and the like. That also did not include all the drugs that had been tried but had failed for a variety of reasons – side effects, didn’t feel like taking them and dosage changes. This was especially true, when, just after a 3-month supply had been sent by the mail order pharmacy, the dose would invariably be changed and somewhere between 90 and 270 pills would no longer be needed. These were generally found in a bin beneath the bathroom sink. It was always full.

What would really get me is the fact that my parents often did not know what the drugs were for, and it seemed they would just accept (or demand) the prescription, get it filled and start taking it without a complete understanding of what it was for, how long it might take to work, and what side effects to watch for.

All of this medication madness drives me crazy. In the case of my parents, the 28 medications were almost entirely necessary. After all, it can take up to 5 drugs, sometimes more, just to treat a condition like heart failure. But I was constantly worried that things would get mixed up, they would miss doses and not know what to do. They tried to keep a running list — and most of the time, remembered to take it to doctors’ visits and hospital admissions. Even so, there was always confusion, concern and things would get missed or mixed up. And they had a pharmacist for a daughter!

That is why I am so adamant about having an interactive medication tracker on our website and in NueLife Journal that helps seniors and their families keep track of the ever-changing and increasingly complex medication list. My family will be using this. Now if I could only get rid of that bin under the bathroom sink!

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