Two-thirds of seniors in American have been diagnosed with multiple health conditions. Each condition may require various medications and each medication has its own set of special instructions. Remembering which drug to take, how much to take, and when to take it can be a juggling act.
As part of their support system and healthcare team, it’s important that caregivers help seniors establish an organized routine for managing their medications successfully. Here are three ways caregivers can simplify the process.
Help seniors understand their treatment plan
Perhaps the first step in successfully treating a medical condition is to understand how each medication works. At doctor’s visits, it’s important that the caregiver or the patient asks why each medication has been prescribed. The medical field is full of jargon, so the doctor needs to explain how the drug works in simple terms. Then, ask how the drug will help the patient’s condition.
If a new medication has been added to the list, it’s also wise to ask the doctor if there is a different medication that is no longer needed. The fewer medications a caregiver and his or her patient are responsible for, the easier treatment can be.
During treatment, a patient can become frustrated or discouraged. Caregivers may need to remind seniors of how our bodies change as we age. Medicine’s effectiveness can vary over the years. Kidney and liver function plays an important role in drug efficacy. So does metabolism, weight, and the nervous system. As these organs and systems change, so does the body’s response to medication. What worked for a patient 20 years ago, may not work well today.
Start a medication schedule
Before a patient’s list of medication gets too long, a caregiver may need to put pen to paper. Creating a medication schedule and keeping it in a convenient place will be a helpful reminder to the patient and caregiver to take or administer medication consistently.
On this schedule, caregivers should write down the drug’s name, the prescribed dosage, and what day and time it needs to be taken. To avoid missing a dose, it’s helpful to take medication at the same time every day.
Other notes that may be helpful include drug interactions and special instructions. For example, a doctor may recommend taking one medication on an empty stomach and another before bed. If your patient is on multiple medications, they may require to be spaced out throughout the day or week to prevent negative interactions. Neglecting these details can be dangerous and even fatal to the patient.
Ask questions and provide feedback
Patients may be hesitant or embarrassed to ask questions and provide candid feedback to their doctors or pharmacists. As an active participant on their healthcare team, caregivers should feel empowered to speak up during doctor’s appointments and pharmacy visits.
For example, prescription labels can be confusing. There’s so much information packed on one small piece of paper. However, it’s critical that caregivers and their patients understand every detail. Thoroughly read the prescription label and medication guide before leaving the pharmacy. Ask the pharmacist for clarification on anything that’s even slightly confusing. Caregivers may also request a medication review during which a pharmacist will explain how to take each medication on a patient’s list.
It may also be helpful to jot down notes about a patient’s response to treatment or questions they’ve had between doctor’s appointments. Take this list to the next doctor’s visit. Depending on the side effects a patient has experienced, the doctor may need to adjust the dose or get rid of a medication altogether.
Managing multiple medications can be overwhelming and confusing. However, staying informed, organized, and active in a patient’s treatment plan will yield better results as medication mistakes are avoided.
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