Why is managing medications so important?
Personally, we had never thought about whether or not our parents were taking their medications as ordered. After his stepdad Jack’s first stroke, Tim and I stayed with his Mom during those first frightening days. During this time, I noticed that there were a numerous medication bottles throughout their home.
With Mom’s permission, I collected all the medication bottles and sorted through them. There were over five dozen medications- over half of them were expired. The oldest medication was 15 years old! We realized that Jack had not been taking his medication correctly which was a major factor that led to his stroke.
Where do you start if you want to help a loved one get organized?
- Do a clean sweep - collect medications from all parts of the home. Remember to check kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers, pockets of clothes (especially robes), purses, the car, etc.
- Check the expiration date for each medicine. Place expired medications off to the side or into a box to keep them separate.
- Review the current medication list or create one if there isn’t one. Include the person’s drug allergies and today’s date on the list.
- Review the medication list and compare it to those medicines you have collected. Start with the prescription medicines.
- For each prescribed medicine: Check the pharmacy label on each prescribed medication on this list. Each should include: the name of the medicine, the dose prescribed, how many tablets/capsules/ml to take, how often to take it, the reason the medicine was prescribed, and special instruction, if any. Is a refill needed? When was the last refill? (This can help determine if too many or too few are being taken).
- Add over the counter medications and supplements that are taken on a routine basis to the list. Are there enough on hand?
- Use one pharmacy for your medicines. If some medicines are mail ordered, be sure to let your local pharmacist know about them. Pharmacists will watch for medication interactions.
- Consider the use of a pillbox(es). There are various size boxes, some have alarms you can set as a reminder to take the medicines. The pillboxes keep the medicines organized. It also makes it simple to see if doses were missed.
- Consider using a pharmacy that will prepackage the medicines into blister packs- at no additional charge. Some pharmacies will deliver the medicines to the home, at no charge as well including Health Park Pharmacy and Hayes Barton Pharmacy. Check out www.healthparkpharmacy.com and www.hayesbartonpharmacy.com for more information on these services.
- Help your loved one fill the pillboxes each week or buy more than one so you can do more weeks at the same time.
- Check each week- are the medicines being taken? Are the same doses being missed each day? Are there any side effects as a result of taking/not taking medication? Consider the use of timers or other reminders if needed.
- Taking medicines as they are prescribed is essential for good health. Talk to your healthcare professional if there are concerns or questions about any medicine.
Have you been able to help a loved one organize their medicines? What did you do? Please share your experiences and what worked for you and your loved one.