An up-to-date medication list is an important tool for both you and your loved one's doctor(s). People with chronic diseases or disabilities take more medications than any other group of patients. With the number of medications some patients take, medication management can easily become overwhelming. Bad health outcomes are three times more likely for patients who do not take medications correctly as compared to those that do. Improper use of medications causes 18 million emergency room visits per year.
1. Maintain an up-to-date medication list
Keep an up-to-date list of all the medications doctors have prescribed for your loved one. Also, list over-the-counter medications and supplements. Be sure to list the name, dosage, and frequency of the medication, the reason for taking it, any dosing directions, the start date, and when appropriate, the end date.
For prescription drugs, add the name and phone number of the prescribing doctor as well as the pharmacy that filled the prescription.
Be sure to include your loved one’s name and your emergency contact information. Note any allergies, or other significant medical information.
Make multiple copies: one for you to carry; one for the patient file; one on the refrigerator for paramedics to find in an emergency; and one for the primary doctor.
A simple computer-based document is one of the easiest ways to keep the record current.
2. “Translate” hand-written prescriptions
Don’t be shy about asking all doctors to “translate” their handwriting, so you can have a record of what they prescribed and why.
3. Write the condition treated on each medicine bottle
You might find that your loved one is taking three different pills for the same condition, each prescribed by a different physician. That may be exactly what is needed, but it is definitely a red flag to alert you to ask questions.
4. Use the same pharmacy when possible
If you do, there will be an official record of all prescription medications over an extended period. This can be a vital timesaver during an emergency.
Develop a strong rapport with your pharmacist and let him/her know you value their advice. The pharmacist is a great resource. Ask your pharmacist’s advice about over the counter medications and if they may react with prescription medications.
5. Understand potential side effects and interactions and monitor interactions
Ask the doctor and pharmacist about potential side effects and interactions with others drugs, vitamins, or foods.
Learn what to do if a dose is accidentally skipped.
6. Come up with an easy way for managing medications on a daily basis
Use pill boxes or other technology to monitor and manage doses.
Use auto-refill programs – when available or appropriate.
Dispose of Unused Medications Properly
Step 1: Crush or dilute medication
Step 2: Put medication in plastic bag
Step 3: Add kitty litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds to plastic bag
Step 4: Seal plastic bag and place in trash
NOTE: Most medications should not be flushed, but there are a small number that should be. Check with the pharmacist to find out if medications should or should not be flushed.
Caregiving Right Now
What Should Be On the Medication List?
1. Name of drug – both generic and brand names
Start and stop dates
What the pill/capsule/liquid looks like
A record of any side effects experienced
What the drug is treating
How and when to take the medication
What not to do when taking the medication
3. Over-the-Counter medications and supplements with their doses
4. Drug and other allergies
5. Drugs to which you experienced a negative reaction (couldn’t tolerate it)
6. Recently completed prescriptions
7. Name/contact info of prescribers (physician/physician assistant/nurse practitioner, etc.)
8. Name/contact info for pharmacy that filled the prescription(s)