The misuse resulting from juggling and coordinating multiple daily medications is the country’s fifth leading cause of death. Market research reveals that seniors between the ages of 65 and 69 take an average of 14 medications daily. And this number only increases as seniors age. If you have ever set-up a pill dispenser for your elderly parents, you understand how confusing and difficult the task. Further compounding the problem…think of the difficulty for a senior with cognitive or memory problems.

– Maintain an up-to-date med list. I urge elderly clients to post copies in kitchen, or on the refrigerator, or bedside table. Or, keep in a logbook which remains in the house. And, keeping family caregivers informed and up-to-date can be vitally important.

Is there a difference between brand name and generic substitutes? Has your pharmacist explained these differences? Is there potential for adverse drug reactions, such as fatigue and drowsiness? Irritability? Upset stomach?

Home care staff can play a significant role in clarifying the medication maize. Be sure document a complete listing, which includes over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and any herbal supplements.

– Keep a watchful eye on pill drawer. Most seniors do not throw away expired or unused pill containers. They keep them, under the assumption that they may be “needed.” Or in case they “run out”. Unfortunately, this is a very bad habit. Almost all the dosages change, so keeping an old prescription is unwise. Get rid of expired pills!

– Organizing pill boxes. Some seniors may be able to handle this task on their own, while others will need assistance. I always try to set-up the next week prior to the current week expiring. This enables continuity…the pills are always ready when needed.

Obviously, taking medications at certain times of day — around any mealtime of morning, lunch, or dinner — helps with scheduling. Or, at bedtime. This will help seniors to remember to take their pills. Be watchful of signs that your elderly parents are struggling, or missing, their daily meds. Ask your pharmacy to automatically refill and deliver your medications.

– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: ; or online at: