By Sonya Stinson
Keeping up with the schedule for multiple prescription medications, not to mention watching out for over-medicating or mixing incompatible drugs, is one of the toughest tasks for any family caregiver. These three medication management tips can help make that job a lot more manageable.
One of the top medication management issues for older patients is over-medication, says Elizabeth Landsverk, MD, founder ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, in Burlingame, California. That's why it's important for patients and caregivers alike to understand the purpose of each prescribed drug. They also need to be assertive enough to ask questions, even though Landverk acknowledges it may take some persistence to get doctors to pay attention to their concerns.
“The biggest thing that a family member can do is go with their family member to the doctor and ask, 'Do we really need this?'" Landverk says.
Pharmacists can be helpful in explaining how various drugs might interact and what their side effects might be, she adds. They also can help clear up confusion between one drug and another with a similar-sounding name, or between a brand-name drug and its generic equivalent.
Monitor the Supply
Medication management is especially challenging when the patient suffers from some type of dementia or cognitive impairment, but even ordinary forgetfulness can cause a failure to take medicine as directed.
If Dad is in charge of managing his own medications, but you're worried he might be having trouble, take a peek at the medicine cabinet for clues. If you notice that a medicine bottle still looks nearly full even though you refilled the prescription weeks ago, he might be skipping some doses. If he's already almost out of pills, he might be doubling up.
“That's a sign that a family member should help them with their medication," Landverk says.
Organize and Automate
When you sense that it's time intervene, the solution might be as simple as getting a pill organizer so you can set up the daily doses ahead of time. For those who need a stronger memory aid, there are automatic pill dispensers that flash a light when it's time to take the medicine, Landverk notes.
“If their medication doesn't get taken in 10 minutes or so, a voice or noise goes off to remind them until they take it," she says.
Some automated medication management systems will even call the patient and notify the caregiver if that pill stays in the dispenser too long.
Another useful tech tool is a medication reminder app, that lets you input information about your medications and receive an alert whenever it's time to take a dose or order a refill.
If you encounter some resistance from Mom or Dad to the idea that they need help managing their meds, let them know they have plenty of company.
“Three out of four Americans struggle to take their medications as directed," states the National Consumers League article.
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