Medication Management: A guide to doing it yourself or hiring a nurse to help
The Risks are Real: Mixing Medications
You may be surprised to learn that, on average, seniors take up to 14 different types of medications. It’s a huge number of potent medications that are rarely coordinated across physicians and have little oversight from any qualified person like a knowledgeable family member or nurse.
Medication mismanagement and failure understand drug interactions can lead to adverse drug reactions and unnecessary hospitalizations. In fact, medications metabolize much differently in older adults with multiple or serious illnesses, and thus, mismanagement of any drugs has a far greater impact on them.
The key to medication management is not only organization but also ensuring that the medications are taken exactly as prescribed. Whether you’re looking to manage the medications yourself, have a family member do it for you, or hire an experienced nurse to help, this eGuide will provide the steps and insights to doing it correctly. The following outline provides a few essential steps that will not only enable you to manage medications yourself (or for your family member), but also help you understand the importance of proper management.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), medication reconciliation is the process of identifying, creating and managing an accurate list of all medications that a patient is taking, including:
Due to frequent changes to existing medications or the prescription of new ones, it’s critical to continually maintain a properly updated list of all of these medications and ensure that they match the medication orders given by physicians.
A comprehensive list ensures that you’ll avoid errors related to omitting, duplicating or incorrectly dosing the medications, as well as any drug interactions. This should be done any time there’s a transition of care, new medications are ordered, or existing orders are changed.
Consider using a medication worksheet – such as the one provided by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) – to help you keep track of the different medication names, dosages, instructions, descriptions and even prescribing physician contact numbers.
Pill boxes or dispensers are a great way of keeping track of daily medications, especially those that have the days of the week labeled, allowing you to put the pills you need to take each day into the container so they’re all in one place.
To make it even easier, services like PillPack take the work out of medication management by:
Sorting medications by the dose
Labeling the packets with the day and time to take them
Refilling and delivering your medications straight to your door
This way, you’ll never have to sort through your medications, wait in line at the pharmacy, or continually monitor and manage refills.
If your family member shows any signs of confusion about their medications or is cognitively impaired, it’s important to not allow them to manage or take their own medications. More often than not, older adults have trouble keeping track of their medications and when to take them. This situation can prove extremely serious and life-threatening.
It is equally important to watch for any side effects with new medications or any change in the orders. A great resource to use is the WebMD Interaction Checker, which allows you to enter in the drugs or supplements you’re taking and see which interact with each other and how significantly they do.
Remember to watch for symptoms such as:
Loss of appetite or sleep
Notify your physician as soon as you experience any of these side effects or feel any discomfort, and inform them of the medications you’re taking that may be the culprit.
Seeking Help from an Experienced Nurse
Medication management by a licensed, registered nurse from a home care organization can be a great investment that helps ensure you or your family member are on the right medications and taking them in a timely and proper manner.
The nurse will come prepared with the knowledge of the patient’s medications and regimen and will have the ability to help administer prescribed medications as ordered by the physician. The purposes of medication management with a home care organization include:
Ensure proper administration of medications
Decrease drug interactions
Watch for signs of adverse reactions or symptoms
Educate the patient and family members on proper dosage, frequency and side effects
Coordinate with the physician and pharmacist for positive outcomes over the course of treatment
Having a nurse reconcile, organize and monitor your medications is an investment. But it is well worth the investment if it prevents just a single hospitalization.