Medication safety is a very important part of the role of a caregiver. You need to be sure that your loved is taking the right medication in the right dosages at the right times throughout the day, for ALL of their medications.
This can be a pretty big job for a caregiver, especially if you don’t live with the person you directly care for.
And this means that there will be times when you aren’t around to make sure they take their medicine.
So, what I would like to do is give you a few ideas as to how you can bring an element of medication safety to your loved one, even if you are not there with them…
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Do you carry a series of vials with one prescription after another? Are your pockets or purse full of these medications? As I explained when I talked about polypharmacy, you can reach the point where you have to take medications just to treat the side effects of other medications.
Now, I am not saying to not take prescribed medications but sometimes it can be better for you to take fewer medications.
So I would certainly sit down with my doctor, as I did at my mother’s care plan meeting, and see if there are any steps that you can take to get off of at least some of the medications you are taking.
One of the best ways…good ‘ole exercise along with proper nutrition and rest. These can be some of the best medications there are.
Know When To Stop Taking Medications
We hear “use as directed” constantly, but many of us don’t. This means paying attention to dosages as well as expiration dates on medications. It also means that shouldn’t continue to take a medication just because a doctor prescribed it for us at one point in the past.
Follow up with your doctor and make sure that the medications are actually needed.
Know When You Should Continue To Take Your Medications
There are some medications that you will need to take forever. These medications will be for medications that will be with you, in all likelihood, the rest of your life. And they can include…
• Insulin for diabetes
• Heart medications for high blood pressure
• Anti-rejection medication if you have had an organ transplant
In addition, not taking a medications when you are supposed to could cause side effects, so make sure you know which medications you should be taking and when.
The Lowest Dose Possible
I think this should especially apply to seniors. Remember that they are probably on a series of medications (my mother was on 18!!!!!!!!) so your doctor should completely be on the ball with this but it is still important for you to know.
Always ask what is the lowest possible dose to deal with your situation. The smaller the active agent you have in your system the better.
Update Your Prescriptions
This is all about being proactive and making sure that you are up to date with your health situation.
Things change. Your condition may change. But if it does, will your prescription change? That’s up to you
So make sure you know what you are taking and what you are taking it for. This way when there is a change in your health you can notify the doctor. This way he/she can do their job and help you.
Keep Your Own Drug History
Your doctor will, but you should too. Why? Because this way you will know if you have taken something in the past that has caused you a side effect. It is possible that another medication can be prescribed that won’t have the same side effect, but will be equally effective in treating your condition.
Stay Aware of Possible Drug Interactions
You need to be mindful of this at all times, but it becomes all the more important when you are taking multiple medications. Not only could prescription meds cause side effects, but the interaction of two medications can cause potentially fatal issues as well.
Now, in a medical facility like a nursing home the computer handles this. If my mother is prescribed two medications that don’t mix it raises a red flag. This is for the most extreme of cases.
But even if we aren’t talking about extreme cases, two medications taken simultaneously can cause side effects like an upset stomach, nausea, etc… These need to be watched out for and if you feel that there is any possibility of such a situation notify your doctor immediately.
Measure Drug Levels In Blood
This was something I learned in the nursing home with Mom. Periodically they would give her a blood test in order to determine the level of medication in her system. This can actually be used to better treat a patient because the medical staff can tell how much medication is needed to effectively deal with whatever the issue is.
It also helps when you are taking as many medications as Mom was (remember it was 18). It might not be a practice that is available all the time but if you can set up this type of test when you visit your doctor it could be beneficial for you.
Only Use As Directed
I mentioned this earlier but it needs repeating. One of the biggest causes of accidental overdose is when people take their prescription medications not as directed.
Mainly it is because they don’t feel the medication is working. If that is the case…call your doctor!!! Don’t start popping more pills for God’s sake.
Minimize The Number of Dosages
Seniors can get confused as to how many times they take their medications. So if there are options where they can take a pill once a day, as opposed to four times a day, see if you can make arrangements for your doctor to prescribe the once a day dosage.
Simpler will always be easier.