Caregiver Blog: Medication Management, from Prescription to Refill

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Skills

If you are a caregiver wishing to make your life easier by doing just one thing for a start, try medication management.

Medication management entails being knowledgeable about the patient’s medications and being organized enough so that the patient takes them in the right way, in the right amount, and at the right time. Being a champ at managing your patient's meds can save you a lot of time and can allow you to do other important things for yourself, and for your patient. Most importantly, it ensures that your patient gets the maximum benefits by preventing missed doses, and keeps them safe by preventing ‘double dosing.'

Be sure to follow these helpful tips:

Upon prescription:

• Ask the doctor for any clarifications regarding the prescription, like the drug name and dosage if they are not legibly written.
• Ask what the meds are for, and other details such as how much and when to give them.
• Ask the physician what to do if certain adverse effects, such as severe allergic reactions, are noted.
• Inform the physician of all the patient's medications including supplements and herbal medicines.

Upon obtaining medications from the pharmacy

• Obtain all meds from the same pharmacy whereby possible. It helps the pharmacist determine the compatibility of the drugs.
• Check if the prescription has the patient’s name on it. Double check for accuracy, ensure that what you get is the same as what is prescribed.

Getting organized

• Make a comprehensive chart. Assign one column for each of the following details: generic name, brand name, what the medication is for, date when they were prescribed, date when to stop taking them, the doctor who prescribed it, the amount to take per dose, the time to take them or the frequency, the route (how to take them), and common side effects. Assign one column for important notes, such as if they are to be taken on an empty or full stomach, if they should not be crushed, or if certain activities, such as driving, should be avoided. If you can manage, take a picture of the bottle and the pill together, and include the pictures in your chart. Be sure to include supplements and herbal medicines that the patient is taking even without prescription.
• Make a list. This time, list all medications that the patient needs to take at a certain time of day. The list is critical, especially when refilling the boxes, and when ensuring that you have the right pills at medication time.
• Keep the chart handy and take it with you in every visit to the doctor. The doctor needs to know all medications that the patient is taking, whether prescribed or not.
• Obtain three pill boxes with different colors. Each pillbox should have seven slots that are big enough to contain a day's medication. Assign a color each for the morning, afternoon, and evening pills. If possible, make four sets of these pillboxes to allow you to organize the medications up to 4 weeks.
• Update the chart and your list accordingly. Remove discontinued meds from, and add new ones to the chart and the list as appropriate.
• Set up alarms. Mobile devices allow multiple alarms to be set in a day. Even if you feel in control of your time, unexpected events can lead to missed doses.
Storing the medications
• If you have young children living with you and your patient, or if your patient who has dementia is prone to double-dosing due to forgetfulness, keep medications out of reach in a locked cabinet.
• If the patient with dementia is taking medications on their own, keep the color-coded pill boxes in separate locations. Sometimes, in their confusion, they reach for the wrong pill box even if they are color-coded for the right time of day.
• Take note if there are medications that need to be stored in the ref.
• Make a habit of checking the expiration dates of medications. For those nearing expiry, it will help if you stick a note on the bottle with the expiration date written in big letters.

Refilling supplies

• Medications that are to be taken for long-term are best to be purchased in bulk because they are cheaper. Consider mail order plans that can provide medications for up to 90 days to save you trips to the pharmacy. You may ask the patient’s insurance provider or pharmacy for this option.

Others

• Make sure no one else is taking the medication other than the patient.
• Keep the contact number of the hospital or the physician handy in case of emergencies related to taking medications.
• Familiarize yourself with the medication and dosages. Read the labels carefully. Before giving the meds, it is best to double check everything, especially if there are new additions.
• Keep a record of side effects and include details such as when they were noted.

Medication management may be overwhelming at first, but when done properly, it becomes your first ticket to a successful and less-stressed life as a caregiver.


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