Medication Management Tips from Older Adults
Learn what older adults themselves think about the challenges of medication management.
There has been a lot written about medication management for older adults. But it is rare to hear from older adults themselves. In this synthesis of explorer discussions, you can hear medication management tips from the older adult Longevity Explorers themselves, and listen to discussions about the things our explorers care about; how they approach managing their medications; which products they prefer (the best pill organizers, and most successful pill reminder techniques); and what problems they face.
Five separate groups of Longevity Explorers talked about their medication regimens across several months of serial explorations. Part of the conversation was just comparing notes about each individual's approach to managing medications. Part was a hands-on, show and tell of pill organizers and pill boxes each explorer used. And inevitably the discussions included whether or not the explorer felt a need for "better" solutions, or whether they were happy with the solutions they had today.
Listen to these discussions to learn about topics such as:
- how these older adults manage their medications today;
- what products they prefer to use (pill boxes, pill reminders, and the like), and why; and
- what if any challenges they experience in day to day managing of various drug regimens.
In one of the explorations, a group of explorers from the San Francisco Village focused on a series of specific questions, posed by a researcher interested in real world answers to commonly debated issues relating to medication adherence.
Listen to that structured conversation on medication adherence here.
Hear the Medication Management Tips and Conversations
The discussions were very rich, and we are not going to summarize them in detail here. Please listen to the discussions themselves, which are listed in the sidebar (big screen) or at bottom (tablet or smartphone). You need to login to listen to the discussions.
Key Medication Management Take-aways
Here are some of the key things we learned. Although it is important to note that there were widely diverging points of view from different discussion participants, depending on things like where they lived and with whom, and on the details of their medication regimen.
Diverse personalized mnemonics
Each explorer had their own mnemonic and their own approach to organizing their medications. Many took advantage of one or other type of pill organizer. But they differed a lot in which exact pill box they liked best. There is more on this below.
General lack of perceived "problem"
Most explorers felt that taking the right pills and medicines at the right time was very important, and that it was something to which they paid serious attention. They all had a personal routine of one sort or the other, some of which were quite complex.
Interestingly, with a few exceptions, most of these older adults felt like they had the problem under control, and that there was not a need for "better" medication management tools, at least for them.
Many of the explorers commented that for those with cognitive impairment, things would get much more tricky. It seemed clear that many of the home-grown memory aids these explorers used would breakdown for someone with cognitive impairment. So these discussions should not be taken as relevant to the scenario of medication adherence in those with dementia, since that is a quite different demographic.
A major feature of everyone's approach to keeping on top of their pills and medicines was some type of organizer.
Most of the pill organizers discussed in the audio recordings are included in the image shown at the top of this page. Each time one of our explorers brought along a pill box and commented positively about it, we sought it out and added it to our "collection" for subsequent show and tell interactions. Most but not all can be found on Amazon.
The pill organizers discussed by these groups of older adults (typically in their 70's and 80's) are all relatively simple. In contrast, healthcare companies and clinicians tend to be interested in a much more complex family of products, with features like locking compartments, automatic dispensing, and automated reminders. It was striking that, at least for these groups of older adults, such products were seen as complete overkill, and suitable only "for someone else"!
There were surprisingly divergent opinions on which pill organizer people preferred. As with many of the other product categories we have explored, it seems that different life situations and different persona types lead to a different answer to "which is the best pill organizer for me?"
We didn't set out to do a thorough comparison of pill organizers. But there were a few that seemed to pop to the top of our explorer's preferences, for specific use cases. Here they are. There may well be similar examples we did not uncover, but these should help point you in the right direction.
Good pill organizer for arthritis sufferers
This product was popular among explorers with arthritis, as it has buttons you push to open the lids of the compartment, which are easier for arthritic fingers than many similar products which you have to pry open. There may well be many other similar products. Look for the button approach to opening the lid.
Learn more about this pill organizer on Amazon here.*
Good pill case for that "have to have it" pill
Some explorers loved these metal pill canisters, although some thought they looked ugly. One of our explorers explained that one of these is the perfect container for a nitroglycerine pill she wants to have on her person at all times. She just keeps one of these containers on her key ring.
Good travel pill organizer
It became clear that our explorers liked very different products to help manage medication when they were travelling, compared to those they wanted to use at home. Several of our more active explorers especially liked this handy travel pouch. They liked its slim form factor. Although some other explorers commented that the pills were not protected from crushing by this product.
More on Managing Medication from Tech-enhanced Life
More complex medication adherence solutions.
There are many of the more complex products for managing medications listed in the resources section of this website. Click on the link below to see the full range of such products.
Visit our listings of medication adherence products, shared by explorers.
Medication Management Technology (for Dementia)
The speakers cover what is out there, the pluses and minuses of various approaches to medication management, and some unmet needs. The focus of the talk is on medication management for dementia.
Pill Reminder App Evaluation
In some related work, we have recently been analyzing pill reminder apps (and other medication managing and reminding apps for the smartphone).
Want More Like This?
*[Disclosure: If you end up buying one of these products after clicking on the links above, Amazon gives us a few pennies from their revenues. Other than that, we have no financial interest in any of the products discussed in this explorer synthesis, and this work adheres to our research guidelines as far as conflict of interest etc is concerned.]
Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions
Comments, Questions, Discussion
from Cameron (unverified) at Nov 3 2016 - 8:51am
There are always comments about seniors managing their medications.
My advice is to confer with your doctor and go over your list of everything you’re taking regardless of who prescribed it, as well as over the counter products that commonly have little or no benefit.
It is common to continue taking medications after the need has passed, or to be taking duplicative meds from different physicians.
Keep it as simple as possible.
Although I am a physician my input comes from my wife, a hospice nurse, who shows me stunningly long lists of medications some people take.