Taking medication sounds simple. Open the bottles. Take out the appropriate pills. Put the pills in your mouth. Wash them down. You’re done. But as you age, medications become increasingly complex and confusing. You may forget to take them or miss a dose. The consequences of medication errors can be deadly.

The number of people treated in U.S. hospitals for illnesses and injuries related to taking medications jumped 52 percent between 2004 and 2008 – from 1.2 million to 1.9 million – according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These side effects and injuries result from taking or being given the incorrect dosage or medication. Blood thinners, cancer drugs, painkillers, arthritis drugs, and blood pressure medicines were among the top drugs causing side effects and injuries. 

“These recent statistics show that medication errors continue to be a serious threat to older adults. As more of our seniors are living longer with more chronic conditions, this trend will worsen,” said Beverly Lawton, the Executive Director of Franciscan Companies Lifeline. “Caregivers need to discuss their family member’s medications at every healthcare appointment and look at ways to reduce risks in their home,” Lawton continued.

Syracuse resident Mike Hayes cares for his mother, Rita. She lives at Park Rose Retirement Community and takes four pills in the morning and one at night.

“She would forget it or sometimes she would double up. Sometimes she would not take it for a couple of days. Finally her doctor called and said your mom has early Alzheimer’s and you need to help her,” Hayes said.

Mike ordered Lifeline’s Medication Dispenser for Rita in March.

“Initially I thought, ‘Mom isn’t very tech savvy and holy smokes…I don’t know if she’s going to latch onto this technology’. Well, it’s as simple as it can get,” Hayes said.

Family members or caregivers load up to 40 days of medications into the Medication Dispenser. The system sends out an audible reminder and a light flashes telling the user when it’s time to take their medication. If the medication isn’t dispensed, the Medication Dispenser alerts a caregiver.

“Sometimes at night she’s out and around and not in her apartment and it’ll call me and tell me the patient hasn’t taken her medicine,” Hayes said.

Now that Rita is taking her medications regularly, her doctor says her blood pressure and cholesterol are back in line. This gives her son peace of mind.

“I don’t have to worry about it if I’m out of town. This thing will constantly give her the medicine. Plus with the med dispenser, you guys (Franciscan Companies) fill it, so it’s a mini check-up twice a month. If something went wrong, you guys would catch it,” Hayes said.

Franciscan Companies Medication Dispenser Service is the only service with a 98.6% dispensing adherence among monitored subscribers.

Call Franciscan Lifeline at (315) 492-8175 for more information.