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Spending time with the elderly? Check their medications

 An elderly woman with a headache. [Getty Images]

With the festive season comes travel to rural homes and people spending time with members of their families, including the elderly, some of who are living with chronic conditions that require medications.

Dr Ancent Kituku, a cancer specialist and a lecturer says that while catching up with the elderly and finding out how they are faring, it is important to inquire and check what drugs they are on especially those with chronic diseases.

Some diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, HIV/Aids or even cancer require the patient to constantly be on medication.

A number visit different facilities or clinicians and may not disclose the medication they are on, while others buy their medicines over the counter.

“A certain patient presented to a public hospital with almost 100 different types of drugs commonly called poly-pharmacy and over 30 of them had already expired,” says Dr Kituku.

According to him, if that patient uses all those medications, it is very dangerous and life-threatening because of multiple side effects, adverse drug interactions and toxicities.

He advises that such patients should be referred to Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinics for medication reconciliation to include prescribed and over-the-counter medicines.

Another reason is to identify various drug-related problems such as drug interactions, and therapeutic duplications, especially for multiple prescribers and non-adherence.

Additionally, referring them to the clinic will ensure they get comprehensive patient education on cost, side effects, technique in case of inhalers or proper use of insulin.

They will also be advised on what drugs to stop and dispose of and also get a replacement of some of the multiple drugs with combined drugs.

As for those travelling with sick people during the festive season, Dr Kituku advises them to know how best to handle their medication while in transit.

“Ensure you know the medication the person is on, the dosage and the route of administration, “ he says. “Also ensure you have packed the medicines well before leaving the house, and if part of the dosage occurs during the time of travel, they should be reminded to take their medicine.

Another tip is to ensure that the medicine is properly stored, away from direct sunlight and those that require refrigeration, one may be innovative around that.

Most importantly, if there are sharp objects or other medical wastes involved, they should be safely disposed of.

“Always remember to keep medicines out of reach of young children to avoid any harm,” Dr Kituku advises.

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