Medication management should be straight forward, right? After all, we’ve all probably taken prescription medications at some point in our lives. This shouldn’t be hard, right?
Yes, and, well, no. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Picking up refills from the pharmacy: While picking up routine refills is, well, routine and anyone including the health aide can do this, I tried to go whenever there was change in medication. For example, a doctor may have changed a dose from 1 pill to 2 pills a day for a certain medication. While most times this worked smoothly, on a couple of occasions the pharmacy had refilled from a prior prescription order – this could have been a simple error – where you clicked a the wrong check box in the pharmacy’s app, the doctor didn’t update the prescription refill per what was discussed (this has happened) or simply the pharmacist pulled up a separate refill. Whatever may be the case, I realized for these “change events”, it was good for me to be there and review what was filled before taking the medication home.
- Filling the medication box weekly: Depending on your loved one’s condition, either they or you will need to fill the medication for them. It’s important that you set reminders and do this diligently. Missing a few doses may impact your loved one’s health. Now, filling a box is easy once you get to doing it, but keep in mind a few things:
- Inertia: It’s amazing how the human brain associates things and makes short cuts. For example, Maa, instead of remembering she took medication X at night, simply made the connection that she takes the “small circular white pill at night.” Well, when the pharmacy switched brands and medication X was now a “small square yellow pillow”, Maa was confused. One way I helped Maa practice was to sit with her every Sunday to refill the medication box with her – but I wasn’t doing it myself – I sat there had her do it in front of me. For each medication, she read aloud the name, dosage and time of day to be taken, before filling the box. Over time the practice has helped her stay on top even when brands have changed.
- Reminders: People forget to take medications. It happens. If your loved one has a smartphone, you can help set up daily reminders with alarms or calendar notifications. I also see Maa at least twice a day, so I make it a point to ask her if she took her medications.
There are a few differences between managing your own medications and those of a loved one who is aging at home with a debilitating health condition. Put in place simple practices and reminders so your loved one can stay on top of medications and isn’t missing any doses.