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How to Help a Loved One With Medication Management

Taking medications is more or less a part of life. Children, adults, and seniors alike may have prescriptions they take on a regular basis. When it comes to seniors especially, taking medications is essentially the norm. Medication management, however, can be tricky. While a home health nursing assistant may be there to assist in managing a loved one’s medications, it’s important that family and friends know what to do as well. There are dosages to be aware of, times at which medication needs to be taken, and side effects to watch for. Helping a loved one manage their medications can be a great stress relief to family, friends, and seniors alike.

How to Organize Medications

The first thing you’ll want to do is help your loved one organize their medication. Poor medication management can lead to incorrect dosages, taking the same medication twice, or entirely forgetting to take medications — all of which can have dire consequences.

Below are some tips on organizing medications:

  • Make a list of all the medications: Make a list of all your loved one’s medications, including the names, dosages, frequency, and side effects. Have several copies of this on paper, as well as on the computer, to bring to a doctor’s, pharmacist’s, or any other type of appointment.
  • Read the bottles’ labels: Before sorting your loved one’s medications, take some time to read through each bottle’s label. Make sure they’ve been prescribed the correct medication and dosage. More information about reading labels will be included further below.
  • Use a pill organizer: Use a pill organizer to sort out what medication needs to be taken each day.
  • Create a dosing schedule chart: It also helps to create a dosing schedule chart. Here you can map out which medication needs to be taken when. You could do this on a computer with a spreadsheet or use a dry erase board. Each time a medication is taken, it can be checked off either by filling in the spreadsheet or by using a dry erase marker.
  • Set an alarm or use an app: Lastly, set a recurring alarm or use an app to help your loved one remember when it’s time to take their medication.

Medication Storage Options

Medication can be stored in a dresser drawer, a kitchen cabinet away from the sink, or a storage drawer. You could also use smaller plastic bins to organize medications inside that drawer. However you decide to store your loved one’s medications, remember to prevent heat, moisture, air, or light from damaging them. Ideally, you want to keep medications in their original container and store them in a dry, cool location.

Following Guidelines: How to Read Medication Labels

As previously mentioned, reading medication labels and following guidelines is critical. Not doing so could present harmful side effects. Medication labels can be tricky though, so it’s important to break down how to read them. Essentially, each bottle features a white panel that states: how to take the medication, what’s in it, and how it may make you feel.

Below are the sections of any given medication bottle:

  • Active Ingredients and Purpose: You’ll want to look at the active ingredients in any given medication and make sure that it’s the same that’s been prescribed, as well as whether any other drugs contain that same ingredient. This is to avoid taking too much of a certain ingredient.
  • Uses: The uses part of the label tells you what the drug treats. Check this to confirm that a given medication will do what you need it to.
  • Warnings: The warnings section informs you of any possible side effects of taking the drug, as well as anybody who should not be taking the drug. For over-the-counter medications, for instance, people who are pregnant or have a health condition are often advised to speak to their doctor first. This section will also tell you when you should stop taking it and when to call your doctor, in the event that you experience adverse side effects.
  • Directions: The direction’s section tells you how much to take and when. Always follow the directions.
  • Other Information: The other information section states what temperature to store medication in and how to see if a bottle has been tampered with.
  • Inactive Ingredients: Inactive ingredients may include dyes, preservatives, or flavorings. Remember to check this section if your loved one has any food allergies.

Medication Reminder Options

Innovations in digital healthcare have provided several useful apps for seniors — namely, medication reminder apps. The MedMinder pill dispenser and the Reminder Rosie alarm clock are two medication reminder apps to consider.

Integrating New Prescriptions

Integrating a new prescription into a senior’s day can be tough as habits are hard to form for anybody. Thankfully, there are medication reminder apps that can help, such as the ones mentioned above. Make sure however that a given medication does not have special storage instructions that advise not taking it out of its original container.

Stay Aware of Side Effects and Drug Interactions

When integrating a new prescription into a loved one’s life, it is also important to be on the lookout for side effects. Such side effects may occur simply from the drug itself or from interactions with other prescriptions a senior is already taking. Certain drugs may also cause unfavorable side effects when taken with certain food or drinks. Mixing alcohol, for instance, with some drugs may lead to drowsiness or slowed reaction time.

The same caution needs to be taken when integrating over-the-counter drugs that contain active ingredients. Loved ones may want to look up what it takes to be a hospice nursing aide. While this is not a job, caring for your senior is a lot like being a hospice aide — with administering medication being one of the biggest responsibilities.  

When to Seek Help

Always keep in touch with your loved one’s doctor and report side effects to them as soon as they occur. Keeping in contact with a doctor helps keep prescriptions up-to-date and stay on track with taking multiple medications.

Resources to have on hand in the event of an emergency:

  • Poison Control: Contact Poison Control immediately if your loved one has taken too much a given medication.
  • Call 911: If adverse side effects are already appearing, call 911 immediately. Make sure to inform operators and first responders what medications your loved one has taken or is currently on.

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