Looking after the medication needs of another person is a huge responsibility, and can often become quite a complicated tasks. Here are our top tips on successfully assisting someone manage their medication needs. If in doubt, always ask the pharmacist, GP or call NHS24 on “111” or in an emergency call “999”.
When dealing with the medication needs of another person, (or even yourself!), it is important to be knowledgeable about the patient’s condition, the type and purpose of medications that have been prescribed, and what to expect in the way of side effects. This ensures that you will know at the earliest opportunity when something goes wrong.
Here are some tips on being knowledgeable about medications:
- Ask questions! Have a discussion with the GP about the medication that is being prescribed, it’s purpose, and anticipated side-effects, and double check that it is not contra-indicated for any other medications that may have been prescribed, and any other remedies that you know the patient may be taking, e.g. St. John’s Wort or other homeopathic remedies.
- Discuss with the dispensing pharmacist if there are any specific instructions on how/when the medicine should be taken. Always keep the written information that accompanies prescriptions safe for future reference. If you intend to decant the medication into a pill dispenser you should also keep the original packaging.
- Ask the pharmacist how the medication should be stored; only ever refrigerate the drug if directed to do so.
- Ask the GP or pharmacist if the drug is addictive or if it is common that people become dependent on it.
- You can ask the GP to direct the District Nurse to do a home visit and teach your loved one about their medication, and how to take it safely.
- Be aware of pharmacy opening hours, and what out of hours/emergency provisions they may have in place.
With all the complicated names of medications these days, never mind the variable doses, it’s easy to lost track of what should be taken and when! Here are some simple tips to make sure that you don’t lose your way.
- Keep a record of what has been prescribed, when and by whom, in a file. If possible, keep the original packaging and information sheets with this record for ease of reference. When a person goes on holiday or is admitted to hospital, take this file with you, together with the prescribed drugs in case the hospital does not have them to hand in their own pharmacy.
- If forgetfulness is a problem, or perhaps there are multiple people involved in the care of your loved one, create a chart that lists the days of the week, the medications prescribed, and the time they are to be taken. Cross off the drug each time it is taken, or record if and when any medications were missed and what action was taken (e.g. if NHS24 or GP was called for advice and what steps were taken). Here is an example of a Good Medication Chart that you can download and use. If a person is admitted to hospital, it is helpful to take this with you.
- Make use of identification bracelets etc. for allergies or chronic conditions.
- Keep a list of drugs on the refrigerator or other equally visible place, and, if necessary ensure that all family members have an up to date copy of the list in case of emergency. This could be done electronically and saved to a mobile phone, or a printed copy could be kept in a wallet or purse.
- It is always best to keep your business with one reliable local pharmacy only as any irregularities in prescriptions can be caught and managed early. Ask about their home delivery services if you think that this would be of benefit.
Improper use of medications can have disastrous consequences so safety should always be at the forefront of your mind when dealing with the medication needs of yourself and others.
- Ensure that all medication is kept in original containers. If blister packs or dispensers are used, make sure a note is kept describing each pill so that they can be easily identified.
- Ensure that if easy open containers are to be used, that these are kept well out of the reach of children who may live in the home, or are likely to visit.
- If necessary, ask the pharmacist for large print labels, or keep a magnifying glass near to the medication so as to ensure that labels can be read with ease. Think about a reminder label on the boxes, reminding them to put on their glasses!
- When filling a prescription, check that the name of the drug on the label matches the prescription form before leaving the pharmacy.
- Never share medication with others.
- Ensure pills are dispensed and taken in a well-lit room. Pills should not be kept near the bed in the event of the wrong medication or a wrong combination being taken by a sleepy patient!
- Discard all medicines that have expired or that have no labels. This can be done by handing them into any pharmacy for safe destruction. Do not simply flush down the toilet or throw in the bin.
- Do not mix alcohol and drugs.
- Consult with the GP or pharmacist if over-the-counter remedies are required to ensure that they are not contra-indicated with anything that has been prescribed.
- When buying over-the counter remedies, always check the packaging for signs of tampering. If a seal has been broken or it looks like the box has been opened, give it to the pharmacist and select another.
- Discuss any adjustments that may have to be made to keep the person safe, e.g. not standing up too quickly to avoid dizziness etc.