Here are the other posts in this series.
Managing medications! If you are like many caregivers, this can sometimes be an overwhelming part of your caregiving. Why? You have to remember which pills need to be given and when as well as what they are for and what are the side effects to watch for?
Sometimes, you may even struggle getting your loved one to take the meds. Either they are sneaky and you aren’t sure they actually swallowed the pills or they have trouble swallowing and you have to mix the pills with something, maybe even crush them, to get the pills to go down. It is often a slow process and one you dread.
The important thing to remember regarding the medications you are giving your loved one (or in some way supervising) is what we learn when we give medications professionally is that the five rights of medication giving are really important. They sound so simple, but often we take them for granted. Giving the right dose of the right medication to the right person at the right time with the right frequency is basic for sure, but not as simple as it may sound.
How do I get it into the person? How do I make sure they have actually taken it? It does them no good if they don’t take it. Reading the label helps me double-check that I do have the right dose. The longer you give the same medications, the more important it is for you to double-check that label every so often to be sure you haven’t mixed up your dose.
Now, let’s sort out the ways to order your medications.
When you break it all down, there are basically two ways to order medications: locally through your pharmacy or mail order.
Of course, there are quite a variety of ways those break down under the two categories. For example, at the local pharmacy, you can pay full price, use coupons offered through the pharmacy or drug company, or your insurance plan/medicare plan covers part of the cost. Refills are usually managed by phone or fax with the doctor’s office but you need to be sure you take care of most of the routine refills when you visit your doctor during routine visits. Make sure you know which local pharmacies your insurance plan works with for the best price.
The same goes with a mail order pharmacy. They tend to run cheaper for comparable products. You can pay full price or pay whatever your insurance/medicare plan doesn’t pay. With mail-order pharmacies, they manage refills via contact with the doctor’s office. They will notify you either by phone, text, or email (your preference) regarding when it is time for a refill to be sent, etc. If you haven’t worked with one recently, give it another try. They are very user friendly for the most part. It is very convenient to have most of your regular prescriptions arrive at your home in the mail. The main thing you must do is keep up with your medications so you allow enough time to get the refills in time. They tend to be good about reminding you if you make sure you have them contact you in the most convenient ways for you. Make sure you know which mail order pharmacy your insurance plan works with for the best price.
How will you remember when to give the medications?
Simplify the medication times of dosages as much as possible. Obviously, if you have some meds that have to be given before meals and some after, it will be more complicated than if you don’t have those restrictions. It sort of depends on how many times a day you take your medications. I set ours up a week in advance. It keeps me from getting surprises when I run out of medicine the day before the refill is needed.
Having a container for your medications to be held for a week in advance is very helpful. To the right, you can see an example of one kind of medication container. Some are much larger and are designed for four time a day doses of medication. Others are for once a day.
As a safety back-up, I also know how many pills are supposed to be in each section so, for example, when my husband is ready to take his nightly pills, if there aren’t 3 pills there, I know he doesn’t have all his nightly pills and I hunt them down in the larger container with all the medications bottles in it.
One advantage of doing it this way is that I get at least a week’s notice for refills. Then I can start working on either a simple refilll (calling or texting the pharmacy) or getting a major refill from the doctor for the pharmacy. This often entails a call to the pharmacy AND the doctor’s office as well as a follow up call to the pharmacy. If the doctor’s office says to give them x hours of time to get the job done, don’t keep calling either their office or the pharmacy. It often takes that amount of time! Planning ahead allows you time to be patient. As a regular patient of most pharmacies (both local and mail-order, you will usually be notified before you get to this point.)
Another advantage of using the container method is that I can tell at a glance if my loved one has had his meds for the morning/evening or not. Life gets busy and complicated and if everything is in place, it is much easier to tell if he has had his pills or not.
How can I get more information on the medication I am giving?
One of the easiest ways to get information on your medication, is to look at the sheet that comes from the pharmacy with your medication. Also, the pharmacist, whether local or on-line, can be very helpful. Our local pharmacy is very helpful in giving information on any new medications and offered help from the pharmacist whenever we pick up our meds for any questions we have. This is especially true if you are worried about how the drug interacts with other medications you take. They watch for this as well on the profile they have on you.
A good question to ask with a new drug is “What are the most common side effects?” Seeing all the side effects listed can be mind boggling, but some of those side effects are very rare. It’s helpful to know what the more common ones are so you can be more alert to them.
The next great question to ask is “What drugs does this medication interact with?” Pharmacies have computer programs that check for drug interactions with the medications you take and any new ones you start taking. That is why it is good to have all of your meds filled at one pharmacy so you have that added protection.
I’m not sure what to recommend in terms of a good website for information on medications. I’ll be glad for recommendations. I’ll add them in here. I have found a few that I thought were okay but I haven’t loved any particular one.
There you have info on the medication side of healthcare systems. Here again, we need help and wisdom aa we learn to navigate this terrain. For many, it is new territory and just another of many details to have to manage.
Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
Psalm 78:52-53 ESV
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:1-4 ESV