It can be daunting for family caregivers to keep track of multiple medications for loved ones. But the more you know about each prescription and why it’s needed, and the more you ask for help from health-care professionals, the easier it is to avoid problems.
Geriatrician James Pacala, M.D., the president of the American Geriatrics Society, offers these tips for caregivers:
- Know What Each is and Why It’s Being Taken
Keep a record of current medicines and ask the following questions about each new prescription: What is this? Why and for how long is it being taken? Does it have a beneficial effect and when will that take place? “Caregivers must ask for or demand this information from the doctor,” Pacala says.
- Develop a Relationship with a Pharmacist
By getting all prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy you can get to know the pharmacist, who is skilled at explaining each drug, what its purpose is, and its potential side effects. Pharmacists also can suggest alternatives and be on the lookout for potentially adverse interactions.
- Ask for Help in Streamlining Prescriptions
Data show that error rates go up when medications are taken more than twice a day, Pacala says. Work with your doctor and pharmacist to simplify the regimen by evaluating every drug’s necessity and looking for alternatives, such as a long-acting form that can be taken just once a day.
- Have One Doctor Prescribe All Medications
If a specialist or secondary physician suggests a new drug or change in prescriptions, that change should be recommended through your primary physician, who can best evaluate whether such a change will interfere with or affect another medication or condition.
- Reevaluate Medications After a Hospital Stay
Hospital stays are one of the biggest sources for problems with medications. “Medicines are often started in the hospital when a patient is very ill,” Pacala says. “They are often continued automatically once the patient is released, so caregivers must work with their doctors to reevaluate the purpose and need of each and every drug.”
Multiple Prescription Advice
Do you have any tips or helpful hints when handling multiple prescriptions? Please comment below and help out a fellow caregiver who might be in need of some advice.