Family Caregivers Can Help Ensure Med Safety

December 12, 2014
Medication Management is Key Role of Family Caregiver

Medication Management is Key Role of Family Caregiver

Medication management is a key role for family caregivers who assist aging parents and other loved ones.  However, that role extends beyond refilling the medication box or making midnight runs to the 24-hour pharmacy.  Medication management for seniors includes monitoring quality of medications and ensuring that dangerous side effects are not ignored or excused as part of the aging process.  For additional tips on ensuring medication management safety, please read on:

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.

Label clearly

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.

And a final tip reminds family caregivers to ensure that all physicians, health care providers, and pharmacist have a complete and up-to-date list of all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements.

Taking proper care of medications may require a little extra time, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

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