Medication Management Tips for Seniors

January 18, 2013

Prescription and medication management can be a difficult task for our aging parents or other loved ones.  Family caregivers can step in assist with this confusing and time-consuming chore.

Prescription management is a  key role for family caregivers

Prescription management is a key role for family caregivers

Those funny squiggles mean something

There are countless jokes about how bad doctors’ handwriting can be, but often what seems like a jumble of letters is really an abbreviation.  These are a few of the common abbreviations that you might find on your prescriptions:

  • Sig – It basically means, “write the following,” and it’s followed by what the pharmacist is preparing and what is supposed to be put on the label.
  • DAW – This means “Dispense as Written” and may be neatly printed on the prescription pad rather than handwritten.  If something is marked DAW, it’s basically telling the pharmacist not to substitute a generic drug instead of the brand name one that the doctor is prescribing.
  • Po – This indicates that the medicine should be taken by mouth.
  • Bid – This indicates that the medicine should be taken twice a day.
  • Tid – This indicates that the medicine should be taken three times a day.
  • Qid – This indicates that the medicine should be taken four times a day.
  • Q 3 h – This indicates that the medicine should be taken every three hours.
  • Prn – This indicates that the medicine is to be taken as needed.

Compare those squiggles to the label

It’s important to know what those abbreviations mean because it’s always a good idea to check the label on your filled prescription bottle or package to make sure that the pharmacist has filled it correctly.  Pharmacists tend to be very, very careful, but sometimes mistakes do happen.  So always check to make sure you have received the right medicine and that the other information – such as how often it should be taken – is the same as what the doctor wrote.

Be prepared for generic

If the pharmacist gives you a generic version of the drug that was prescribed, double-check with your doctor to make sure that’s okay, even if he did not write “DAW” on the prescription itself.  It’s even better if you ask your doctor when he first gives you the prescription so that you know in advance.  If your insurance company does not cover the brand name drug, or if it comes with an expensive co-pay, ask your doctor if a generic version is acceptable.  In many instances, generic drugs are equally as effective as brand name drugs; however, there are some instances in which a doctor may feel strongly that a generic may not work as well for your loved one’s situation.

Caring for aging parents requires that we educate ourselves in a myriad of areas and prescription management is one of many!

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