Practical Tools to Manage Medication

Getting help to manage medications

Family Caregiver Alliance

Henry’s kitchen counter looks more like a medicine cabinet these days than a place for breakfast. His daughter, Gayle, is increasingly concerned over whether or not her father is taking the right pills at the right times.  She also wonders if some of the medication her father takes could be interacting in a negative way with the supplements he takes. While Gayle stops by daily to check on her dad, it’s hard to tell what has been taken and what remains untouched.

Medication management can be a daunting task for seniors and their caregivers on a daily basis. While prescriptions are intended to make a condition or symptom better, they can also be a double-edged sword. When mixed with over-the-counter remedies, alcohol or caffeine, or not properly reconciled with other medications, prescription drug interactions can have major consequences. Finding practical tools that help family caregivers like Gayle manage the medications of those for whom they care, is an important step to ensuring the safety of seniors taking more than one kind of medication—and generating peace of mind for their caregivers.

Help with Medication Management
After the doctor scribbles out a prescription, there are a few practical tools and resources available for family caregivers to help keep medications in check. We’ve included some important examples below.

1. Talk to your pharmacist
Pharmacists can be an invaluable resource for family caregivers and seniors, by providing solutions such as large print on prescription bottles, easy-open caps, liquid forms of hard-to-swallow capsules and more. However, beyond helping modify how medications are provided, pharmacists can also help catch any possible drug interactions by “reconciling” the medications that their pharmacy provides.  When you have a nagging concern about whether or not a prescription will interact with others, or any over-the-counter remedies, try asking your loved one’s/care receiver’s pharmacist for advice.

2. Incorporate pill boxes as part of a medication routine
Specialized pill boxes can help family caregivers present medications to seniors in an easy-to-understand way. Instead of keeping multiple pill bottles, which may all look alike in the medicine cabinet, consider separating medications into a pill box. Available in a variety of styles that separate days of the week or times of day, pill boxes may help manage proper dosage by making pills readily available in one convenient place. Additionally, family caregivers can pop open a section of the box to easily check if medication has been removed rather than checking individual bottles.

3. Keep a Caregiver’s Notebook
Keeping track of multiple medications can be a challenge for family caregivers as they struggle to not only ensure medications are taken, but that they remain refilled and up-to-date. A caregiver’s notebook, assembled from a loose leaf binder can be a great tool to help manage refill reminders, as well as keep a comprehensive listing of medications and their dosages to have with you at doctor’s visits and during any medical emergencies. Caregivers who utilize technology, like iPhones and other smartphones, may also find it helpful to download an app* to their device or schedule refill reminders in their mobile calendars. Likewise, consider talking to your loved one’s pharmacy about the availability of refill reminder calls to help you better juggle your caregiving duties.

[*View a sample list of apps for caregivers presented by FCA family counselors at the 2012 Aging & Disability Technology Summit in San Francisco last month.]

For more information on medication management for family caregivers, visit FCA’s Caregiver’s Guide to Medication and Aging.

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