Being diagnosed with a chronic health condition can be overwhelming. A single condition could require multiple medications (each with their own set of special instructions), frequent doctor’s visits, and several treatment options.
Now, imagine being diagnosed with multiple health conditions. The majority of seniors in America are experiencing the burden of health problems. On top of accepting their diagnosis, they’re being challenged to remember which medication to take, how much to take, and when to take it.
A caregiver can make or break a patient’s treatment plan. As part of their support system and healthcare team, it’s important that caregivers create and maintain an organized medication management system that will help patients adhere to their medication regimen. Here’s how you can streamline the process.
A patient may feel frustrated or discouraged after receiving a diagnosis and during treatment. Caregivers may remind seniors of how our bodies change as we age. The efficacy of medication varies over time. Metabolism, weight, the nervous system, and kidney and liver function all affect the effectiveness of a drug. As these systems and organs change, so does the body’s response to medication. What worked for a patient in the past, may not work as he or she ages.
Deciphering prescription labels can be a tedious task. However, when you’re helping someone else manage their medications, it’s imperative that you are as detail-oriented as possible. Here are a few critical pieces of information to pay close attention to:
- Contact information for the patient, doctor, and pharmacy
- The name of the drug, its strength, and drug manufacturer information
- Instructions for taking the medication
- The date the medication was prescribed and filled, how many doses were provided, how many refills are left, and an expiration date
Keep a calendar
A mistake in medication can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. The more medications you have to keep track of, the more susceptible you are to miss a dose, take the wrong medication at the wrong time, or accidentally overdose. The best way to avoid these mishaps is to take (or administer) medication at the same time every day.
As a patient’s list of medications continues to grow or change, caregivers should have a system in place to stay organized. Creating a medication schedule and keeping it in a central location is a helpful reminder to the patient and caregiver to consistently take or administer medication.
On this calendar, caregivers should note the drug’s name, the dosage, and what day and time it needs to be taken. It may also be helpful to keep track of drug interactions and special instructions as recommended by the doctor or pharmacist.
For example, a doctor may recommend taking a certain medication on an empty stomach to enhance the metabolism of the drug while another medication may need to be taken before bed because of a drowsiness side effect. Other medications may need to be spaced out throughout the day or week to prevent negative side effects from occurring.
Lean into the conversation
Patients may be hesitant to ask questions or feel embarrassed to give honest feedback to healthcare providers. That’s why caregivers should be empowered to be an active participant in conversations during doctor’s appointments and pharmacy visits.
At the doctor’s visits, caregivers should bring the medication feedback form (mentioned above) and report any unusual side effects the patient has experienced. The doctor may need to adjust the dose or stop medication altogether.
Caregivers should also ask the doctor at least two questions at each appointment. First, if a new medication is prescribed, the caregiver should ask how the new drug will help the patient’s condition. The medical field is full of jargon, so the doctor should explain how each drug works in layman’s terms. Secondly, ask if there are any medications that are no longer necessary for the patient to take. Remember that medications include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine, and supplements.
The fewer medications your patient needs to take, the easier medication management will be.