Avoiding self-medication and remembering to take medicines on the right day and at the right time is vital to the wellbeing of the elderly.
María Francisca Echeverri, geriatrician
Sol Beatriz Gil Ruiz, gerontologist
Including taking medications as part of a daily routine is a common practice, especially among the elderly. According to the Colombian Ministry of Health, 84.8% of the elderly population in Colombia suffers from more than one chronic health condition. This is why at this stage of life, oral medications become an important part of improving the elderly’s wellbeing and life expectancy.
Some conditions that can occur in the elderly include high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, heart conditions, osteoporosis, and reduced visual and auditory acuity – not to mention mental illnesses such as depression. In general, prescription medications can keep these conditions under control when treatment indications are followed.
As Sol Beatriz Gil Ruiz, gerontologist rehabilitation counselor, explains, “After a certain age, taking pills becomes a common practice. Problems arise with polypharmacy or when pills are combined with alternative medicine, as this form of medicine can increase or obstruct the effects of modern medicine. This is why, when seeing their doctor, the elderly should be sincere and tell them what they consume, whether it is herbal infusions or alcoholic beverages. Even certain foods can cause adverse effects.” Dr. Gil further explains that taking pills is common practice for populations between ages 60 and 65; however, this does not mean that the population between ages 35 and 60 is exempt from taking medication.
In addition to self-medication, there is another situation that is important to be aware of: the course of treatment. This refers to adhering to treatment without interruptions, either due to forgetting or because of a conscious choice.
In either case, family plays an important role in not supporting or encouraging the use of other medications, monitoring the doctor’s treatment instructions and seeing to it that medications are being taken throughout their prescribed duration, especially when parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents or siblings have cognitive impairments.
“For example, the effectiveness of medications is time limited, so their concentration in the body lowers if a schedule is not kept. It is also important to know what should be taken with what, as there are certain medications that should be taken alone only with water, such as thyroid medications,” states gerontologist and professor at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, María Francisca Echeverri.
Protecting the independence of the elderly to the greatest extent possible in their medical procedures is a gesture that instills confidence, self-esteem and security in them. Providing them support is an emotional type of help that encourages them to carry out their regimes correctly and with a more positive attitude. Promoting active aging is, without a doubt, a way to improve the wellbeing of the elderly. Practicing yoga, attending water aerobics classes, dancing, walking, interacting and socializing in other settings, strengthens the emotional and physical aspects of the elderly.
Make taking medication part of a routine
- Try to take pills every day at the same time
- Set alarms on your cell phone and title the alarm with the name of the medication. Alerts can also be sent to your e-mail to indicate that it is time for them to be taken.
- Leave reminders on the fridge.
- Label the pills by what time they should be taken.
- Apps such as Mango Health, Dosecast and Medisafe can also serve as reminders.
- Combine taking medication as part of a daily activity such as drinking coffee, going out for a walk or calling a loved one.
- Make taking medication part of a ritual for wellbeing. Take the time to do it and remember that it is for your own good.
1 of every 2 patients with chronic conditions do not adhere to their treatment plans, according to the WHO.
See also: Using different medications properly