As a caregiver you may spend a lot of time dealing with medications. Making sure your loved one has the right medicine and takes it as prescribed is a top priority. It’s important to know about the medications you and your loved one are taking and to be clear about the safe use, possible side effects, storage and disposal of all the medications in your home.
Problems with medication management are one of the main reasons some people can no longer live on their own. Some older residents are in nursing homes because of medication errors, and many patients are readmitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge because of drug interactions or not properly following prescription instructions.
Here are a few interesting articles and tip sheets on medication safety.
- 5 Questions to Ask About Your Medications
- 20 Safety Medication Tips for Families
- Warning: Do Not Mix These Supplements
- Common Foods and Medications That Are Dangerous to Mix
If dealing with a lot of medications gets hard to manage, you may want to speak to your pharmacist about receiving medication in blister packs to make it easier. The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia has a good explanation of what a blister pack is and when it is appropriate.
If you have concerns about any of the medications you or your loved one are taking we encourage you to talk to your pharmacist about a Medication Review. A yearly medication review gives you a chance to look at all the medications being taken and to connect with your community pharmacist. There may be a charge for this service. Check with your health insurance provider about possible coverage.
In Nova Scotia the Vial of Life program stores vital health information including physician and pharmacist contacts, allergies and other medical information in a vial in the refrigerator. A fridge door sticker alerts emergency services that the client is part of the Vial of Life program. Blank templates can be copied from here.
In an emergency, people who are ill or injured and their families may be unable to communicate important medical information to emergency services personnel. This service lets first responders know about medical conditions, medications, and who to contact in case of emergencies.
Caregivers Nova Scotia offers a free Safe Medicines for Seniors and Caregivers workshop which reviews the safe use, storage, and disposal of medicines. This workshop is delivered with a community pharmacist. Please call Caregivers Nova Scotia for information on a workshop near you.
Many people think managing medication for a care recipient is easy, but it can be quite complex. Taking responsibility for the management of someone else’s medication can involve many factors. Some of the steps in medication management may include:
- recognizing that there is a problem that needs medical attention
- scheduling an appointment with the doctor or nurse practitioner
- driving your care recipient to the appointment, or making arrangements for other transportation
- remembering symptoms or other facts while at the visit
- listening to the doctor or nurse practitioner as they explain what medication is needed
- asking questions about dosage, timing, or side effects
- going to the pharmacy and perhaps consulting with the pharmacist
- storing medication appropriately at home
- ensuring medication is taken even though the care recipient may be resistant
- ensuring that your person gets the right medication, in the right dose, at the right time
- monitoring that the medication does what it is supposed to do
- monitoring for side effects
- contacting the pharmacist, doctor or nurse practitioner if there is a problem
- making the recommended adjustments
- monitoring again for results and side effects
So it’s understandable if you’re feeling overwhelmed, especially when there are multiple prescriptions.
The Caregiver's Handbook has information on medication management as well as a medication chart that may help you get organized. You may also consider using a small notebook to record any other details such as whether a medication was taken late or when side effects began.
Medication Jeopardy is an excellent online resource that outlines the risks attached to taking medication and how age influences those risks.