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Today’s blog post takes a different approach. We spoke to one of the case managers at Immaculate Homecare Services in Woburn, MA as we sought to find out what they wish family caregivers knew about medication management. The feedback they shared was based on observations while providing care especially in situations where they had to step in to rectify medication mismanagement by family caregivers. While in appreciation of the effort made by family caregivers in the absence of a professional caregiver, they felt that there are some important tips that could help them better manage medication for their loved ones in the absence of a professional caregiver.

Question (Q): So, tell us your number one rule on medication management.

Answer (A): I think for this I will refer to the rights of medication administration. There are five rights that are recommended to reduce medication harm and mismanagement. These include the right medication for the right patient at the right dose within the right route and at the right time. A family caregiver is simply expected to follow the doctor’s instructions on how the medication should be administered with respect to the timing and mode of administration. Avoid administering medication to another individual just because they share the same symptoms as the family member you are caring for, interactions and dosages differ. A specialized and detailed diagnosis will determine the right medication without interfering with an ongoing prescription for the family member you are caring for.

Q: What is the first step in medication management?

A: A review of any previous medication that a patient has been taking. By this I mean, you could be on long-term prescriptions to manage conditions such as diabetes and while on the diabetes medication, you develop severe back pain that is unrelated to diabetes. Prior to starting your back pain treatment, it is important to ask for a review of your current medications to avoid unanticipated drug interactions or a possible overdose.

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Q: When does medication management become a challenge?

A: I would say when there are more drugs to be taken at different times of the day. It can be very easy to confuse the dosage or timings to administer medication. In such situations, family caregivers could risk over or under medicating their loved one and this could have some severe consequences.

Q: How important is a medication management system and how should it be setup?

A: A medication management system helps the family caregiver stay on track with the correct administration of medication. Creating the perfect system requires a caregiver to look into the medication charts, calendars, pill boxes and pill dispensers with the use of an alarm. The use of applications such as Medisafe offer personalized medication reminders and drug interaction warnings.

Developing an effective and accurate system also requires the caregiver to clearly label the medication as well as keep an updated list of all the medication with their expiry dates clearly labelled on the bottles or boxes. Pre-sorting the medications and placing them in a pill organizer also makes the medication management system more effective and efficient. Finally, make prior plans for refills guarantees that you are adequately stocked if the medication runs out at home or at your local pharmacy.

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Q: Why and when should a family caregiver consider professional in-home care for medication management?

A: As soon as the medication is prescribed to a patient, family caregivers should consider involving a professional caregiver. Their expertise in medication management will be able to help the family caregiver understand any negative drug interactions, potential side effects of the drugs and the appropriate way to administer these drugs. For instance, some family caregivers might not know how to start a Peripheral IV catheter and they might require the help of a professional caregiver.

Q: Who should be a part of the medication management core team?

A: There are four individuals I consider very important in the medication management core team, they include the patient’s primary physician, their primary registered nurse, an in-home caregiver and their local pharmacy of choice. Maintaining frequent communication with these team members is crucial in proper management of medication.

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Q: How should medication be stored?

A: I would like to make an emphasis on the proverbial “store in a cool, dry place that is safe from children.” This is an important storage measure we take for granted, yet failure to store medication right could damage the medication and expose them to children. However, there are some drugs that have specific storage requirements such as refrigeration, these should be kept in a separate compartment in the fridge to avoid contamination.

Q: Any parting shot on medication management?

A: Medication management at home should be taken seriously as though the patient is still in hospital. The successful completion of treatment allows the individual to resume life normally without any activity or dietary restrictions. For patients taking long-term medication, it is possible to lead a normal life while making accommodations for the medication requirements. I would like to tell family caregivers that it’s okay to ask for help or clarification when things just don’t make sense.

Thank You!!

Do you need assistance or guidance on medication management from a Registered Nurse, a Licensed Practical Nurse or an Experienced Caregiver? Schedule a complimentary consultation with us today via 781-281-8078 or info@immaculatehcs.com.

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