In most cases, a big role for the family caregiver is assisting our loved ones with managing their many, many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications or supplements. Medication management for seniors is much more than knowing which pill box slot to place the pink pill or what time the blue pill should be taken by our aging parents or other loved ones.
Proper medication management includes maintaining quality of medications and ensuring that dangerous side effects do not go unattended, among other concerns. For additional ideas on keeping medications safe, please check out these following tips:
Keep it fresh
Many home caregivers and their patients are tempted to hold onto medicine for too long rather than to throw it away. For example, if Mother had a particularly nasty cough two years ago and some of the medicine remains, it may be tempting to store that medicine in case the cough comes back. However, medicine can lose its effectiveness over time, especially if it is in an area with a lot of heat or light.
Also, some medications (such as antibiotics) are intended to be consumed entirely. Patients who stop taking medication before it is all finished may find that the medication is not as effective the next time it is needed. Thus, holding on to antibiotics is definitely not advised
It’s also important to consult a doctor before starting any new medication, even if the medication is one that has been used in the past. This is especially important if a patient has begun other medications with which an old drug may interact negatively.
Keep drug information handy
Often, people toss away the sheets of information that accompany prescription drugs. It’s better to keep these stored in a safe place; they contain important information, some of which may not be needed at the time home caregivers first get the medicine but which may become important at a later date. For example, such a sheet may provide information on other drugs (including over-the-counter medicines) which may negatively impact effectiveness or cause side effects. This may be information that is needed if a new medicine is added to the patient’s regime, either on a temporary or regular basis.
Look out for recalls
Home caregivers should pay attention to announcements about medicines that have been recalled, in case any medications prescribed for loved ones are on the list. If there is any doubt about whether a particular medicine has been recalled, consult with a reliable pharmacist or a doctor.
Self-label medicines so that anyone can see what each medication is, what dosage is required, how often it should be administered, and any other pertinent information (e.g., what food it must accompany). This is important if the caregiver who normally takes care of administering medicine is indisposed and someone new must take his or her place.
Finally, a key component of medication management for seniors is to ensure that all doctors, health care providers and the pharmacist has a complete list of all medications that are being taken, including over-the-counter medications and any supplements.
Taking proper care of medications may require a little extra time, but the benefits are well worth the effort.