Patients and caregivers must be educated about proper use and dosage to prevent adverse effects.
MALAYSIA is a country with an estimated population of 32 million. Like most countries, the elderly population in Malaysia is growing steadily.
According to the World Assembly on Ageing 1982, an elderly person is defined as an individual aged 60 years and above.
Based on 2019 figures from the Department of Statistics, those aged 65 years and above make up 6.7 per cent of the country’s population and the United Nations has estimated that in 2030 Malaysia’s elderly population will reach 15 per cent.
The elderly are at highest risk of having medical conditions and diseases which require long-term care and treatment. As we age, our organ functions will inevitably deteriorate, causing a delayed excretion of medications from our body.
In addition to that, the elderly tend to have complex medication regimes due to the possibility of multiple chronic diseases. These are essentially the reasons why the elderly are more susceptible to adverse drug reactions, drug interactions and drug mix-ups.
Hence, special care and attention should be given to patients in the elderly population to ensure that they have a good quality of life. These patients as well as their family members and/or caregivers should take note of their medical conditions and the treatments they are on.
This is important so that the medication regime can be fully understood and followed to prevent any unpleasant events which could result from taking medications incorrectly.
It is common for the elderly to face challenges which could affect their medication use. Below are some of the challenges commonly encountered and suggestions to overcome them:
Seek assistance from a pharmacist to write medication labels more clearly. Always ensure that labels are read in brightly lit areas.
Use memory aids such as calendars, mobile apps, alarms or pill boxes.
Discuss with your doctor about the possibility of a simpler medication regime. Get family members and/or caregivers to assist in monitoring medication use.
•REDUCED/RESTRICTED PHYSICAL STRENGTH, RESULTING IN DIFFICULTY IN OPENING MEDICINE BOTTLES
Family members and/or caregivers can assist the patient in preparation of medications, such as routinely placing medicines into a pill box.
•DIFFICULTY IN SWALLOWING
Discuss with a doctor/pharmacist regarding available alternative formulations such as liquids, creams and patches.
Do not crush tablets without consulting your pharmacist as certain medicines cannot be crushed.
Always notify your doctor/pharmacist when using any medications or supplements from other sources to avoid any possible interactions with your prescribed medicines.
TIPS ON MEDICINE USE
HERE are tips on medicine use based on the “5 Rights” concept that every patient should know and practise each time they take their medicines in order to bring about the desired results:
1. RIGHT PATIENT
Ensure the name of the patient matches the name written or printed on the medicine label.
2. RIGHT MEDICINES
It is advisable for patients to learn the name of the active pharmaceutical ingredient and indication of all their medicines. Avoid identifying medicines by their shapes and colours.
3. RIGHT DOSE
Ensure that the dose taken is as directed by the doctor. The dose must not be altered without prior discussion with the doctor.
4. RIGHT ROUTE OF ADMINISTRATION
Medicines come in a variety of dosage forms and have specific routes of administration. This includes the correct way to use medicine aid devices such as insulin injections and inhalers.
5. RIGHT TIME OF ADMINISTRATION
Patients should be aware of the frequency of which they must take their medicines daily as well as which medicines are to be taken before food or after food.
Attention should similarly be given to the proper storage of medicines. Medicines which are not properly stored are prone to deterioration and this may render them ineffective. On top of that, for child safety purposes, medicines should always be stored away from children.
Another important matter that patients and their family members and/or caregivers should pay attention to is the follow-up appointment date with the doctor.
Appointments must not be missed to ensure continuity of care and supply of medicines. It also helps to keep a journal of health and medication records as it can come in handy as a reference for the attending doctor or pharmacist, especially in times of emergency.
If there are any inquiries regarding medicines, please call the National Pharmacy Call Centre (NPCC) at the toll-free line 1800-88-6722 during weekdays from 8am to 5pm.
Article prepared by Ivory Jeanne Bakri, pharmacist, Ministry Of Health Malaysia.