Based on our experience, we have compiled some helpful tips for caregivers. For additional information and support, click here to complete our contact form or call 301-791-6360.
The challenges of managing medications can be difficult for many seniors – especially those who take multiple drugs for various health problems. Here are some tips that can help.
- Tell the doctor about all the medicines he/she is currently taking (bring her drug list along), if he/she is being treated by another doctor for something else, and if she has any allergies or side effects from any particular medicines.
- Be sure you know the name of the newly prescribed medicine and can read the handwriting on the prescription. If you can’t read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either. Also ask if there’s a lower-cost generic version available.
- Ask about the possible side effects the new medicine can cause, and what should be done if they occur.
- Find out how and when the medicine should be taken, how much to take, and for how long. (Note: not taking medication as directed can cause serious health problems.)
- What foods, drinks, other medicines, dietary supplements or activities should be avoided while taking the medicine?
- What should be done if a dose is missed, or an extra one was inadvertently taken?
- When should the medicine begin working, and what, if any tests are required to monitor the reaction to the treatment?
If you have any doubts about a prescribed medication, do some research online at sites like www.drugdigest.org or www.medlineplus.gov or ask your pharmacist. It’s also a good idea to submit all prescriptions to the same pharmacy or chain. Typically, pharmacy computer systems automatically flag any potential drug interactions.
Studies estimate that two-thirds of Americans that use medicine fail to take their drugs as prescribed, mainly because they either don’t remember; can’t afford them or experience unpleasant side effects. If forgetfulness is the problem, here are some tips that may help:
- Keep your medicines in a place you’ll notice them like your bedside stand, kitchen counter, etc. Don’t keep them in the bathroom medicine cabinet where they’re exposed to damaging humidity and heat.
- If you can, take medicines at the same time each day. To help remember, try linking your medicine to something you do regularly like brushing your teeth or eating lunch.
- Use calendars, pillboxes or medication timers (see www.epill.com) as reminders, and to keep organized.
- Keep a written schedule or checklist of the pills you take and how often to take them. Click here for a printable Emergency Medication List.
- Put reminder notes around the house (on the refrigerator, by the phone, etc.).
- Ask a friend or relative to call and remind you.
- Monitor your disease. Home blood-pressure or blood-sugar testing, for example can help motivate you to take your medication.
- Remember to order refills in time to avoid lapses in treatment.
Nearly half of Americans, age 65 and older take five or more prescription drugs, and 12 percent take 10 or more. Unfortunately, the more drugs a person takes, the higher their risk for potential medication problems, and the more likely they are to take something they don’t need. If you have questions or concerns about the various medications you (or your loved one) are taking, gather up all the medications currently being used (include all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements) and take them to your primary physician for a drug review. Go through each one together. Once you’ve agreed on which ones, if any, to change or drop, make a master list of the remaining ones as a reference, and with every change, update it.
Savvy Resource: The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists offers a free packet of information on medication problems, including a list of dangerous drug interactions. They also offer a national directory of senior care pharmacists that help older patients by managing their medications. Visit www.seniorcarepharmacist.com or call 800-355-2727.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.
Your “411″ For Help
HWC offers in home support when someone has a life-limiting illness, either acute or chronic, and decides that curative measures are no longer appropriate, effective or desirable. Hospice care becomes a compassionate, dignified and beneficial option for end-of-life care. When possible, the patient receives care in his or her own home with family and friends functioning as the patient’s primary caregivers.
Remember that we provide:
- pain and symptom management
- medical equipment and supplies necessary to promote and maintain patient comfort
- medical care focused on maintaining patient comfort
- assistance with personal care and activities of daily living
- coordination of community resources to assist the patient and family with non-medical concerns
- assistance by trained volunteers to provide companionship, emotional support and help as possible in other ways as requested by the patient and family
- help in coping with spiritual questions and concerns at the end of life, either directly by our team or by coordinating services with the patient’s and family’s spiritual advisors
For most, caring for someone with a life-limiting illness is an experience they are not familiar with; therefore our staff is always available to assist patients and families with questions and concerns.
Call HWC at 301-791-6360 when:
- you have any questions regarding medications (when, how much, why, etc),
- there is a problem with a catheter,
- you recognize a decline or change in the person,
- you need help understanding what is going on at the present time with your loved one,
- you need a break from the situation, or
- you have any question or concern.
These ‘411’ tips are basics for getting help. Please don’t be fearful of asking questions. Our experienced staff, cares for people in the end stages of life every day, you do not. We expect there will be many questions, thus we are here for you. Please visit our Caregivers Corner for more information on Hand Washing, Catheter Care, and more.