Medication management is an important skill for both patients and caregivers. Many of you might not know that medication management or adherence to your medication has a fancy name called Pharmacokinetics. This word isn’t meant to intimidate you, but to stress the importance of understanding your medication and using best healthcare practices.
Medication adherence and management are particularly important for elderly folks and their caregivers. According to the World Health Organization, adherence occurs when an individual’s behavior matches the healthcare goals suggested by a healthcare professional. This can include taking medication, following a diet, and/or following a new exercise regime.
Research in the Journal of Clinical Nursing and the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing both agree that poor adherence and medication management occurs most frequently in seniors. Both sources also both found that adherence to medication is more complex for seniors because they have multiple disorders or conditions that need attention and medication.
Due to more complex illness, seniors struggle more than other groups to take their medication daily. If you want to see the best results and ensure best healthcare practices, take a look at these medication management tips.
Tips For Medication Management
1. Understand the Medication
The Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences defines medication as therapeutic interventions that aim to reduce patient suffering and symptoms. The overall goal of medication is to promote healing and increased quality of life.
Along with these goals comes the possibility of adverse side effects. This is why understanding medication is so important.
Ask questions and takes notes when the doctor provides information about the medication. Be sure to know:
- Side effects
- Why the medication has been prescribed
- Which symptoms the medication treats
Knowing the name and dosage of your medication will help immensely if you encounter a pharmacist error when he or she fills your prescription.
If you or your caregiver is not comfortable taking notes, ask the doctor to write down this information. Also, consider taking a picture of the information so that you readily have it on your cell phone.
2. Follow Directions
Safety is key to medication management and that involves following the directions. Start by reading the instructions that your pharmacist provides when he or she fills your medication. Address any concerns or questions with your doctor or the pharmacist as soon as possible.
- Ask your patient’s physician at which times you need to administer the medication and if the medication needs to be taken with a meal.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Doctors typically advise patients to keep medication in original containers to avoid mix-ups. Keeping meds in original containers also ensures correct expiration dates and amount of refills left on your prescription.
- Continue to the same pharmacy to avoid any confusion. Your pharmacist will also better understand your condition and will have more knowledge of all the medications that you take. This helps prevent adverse side effects.
- Regardless of instructions or tips listed on the prescription, medications often affect older people differently, so keep this in mind.
What is a half-life?
All medications have a half-life. A half-life is the amount of time it takes to eradicate half of the dosage from your body. After continuously taking medication for about a month, your body will reach a “steady state”. A steady state occurs when your body absorbs the same amount of the medication as it metabolizes and excretes the drug.
Most commonly, a steady state is reached after a drug undergoes five or six half-lives. You will most likely experience temporary side effects while the drug is reaching its steady state. This process is exactly why missing a dose is dangerous. When you miss a dose of the medication your body works harder to get back to a steady state and this is when temporary side effects heighten.
Under no circumstances is it a good idea to change the dosage or discontinue using the medication unless your healthcare provider says otherwise. If the medication is not helpful or is making the condition worse, talk to your healthcare provider about discontinuing or adjusting the medication.
3. Keep Medical and Prescription Records
Keep a written or electronic history of:
- all medications and dosages,
- drug brand(s) and generic names,
- cautions of medications,
- any side effects experienced,
- surgeries, allergies,
- a family health record,
- and a list of current physicians or doctors and their phone numbers
Every physician involved with treatment and medication additions or adjustments needs this history in order to make the best decisions regarding your health. Don’t forget to include medications like supplements or over-the-counter items or herbal medications.
Be sure to share this list with a loved one or a caregiver in the event that a serious drug interaction, overdose, or other side effects occur. Sharing this list with your pharmacist will also help reduce serious drug interactions.
If you want to keep a running list of medical records and prescriptions electronically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration has a chart called “My Medicine Record” that you can use. Share this with your healthcare provider can use to keep their healthcare providers informed about their medications and dietary supplements.
4. Watch for Changes
Report any changes to your lifestyle like social changes, sleeping patterns, work schedules, and dieting. Your physician will likely need to consider these changes when adjusting or suggesting new medications.
As your body adjusts to medications, keep an eye out for any physical, emotional, or behavioral changes. Changes might be subtle, so consider journaling or ask your caregiver to take some notes for you. Changes to look out for include:
- Social changes like isolation, anger, or inability to communicate with others
- Change in diet like overeating or undereating
- New sleeping patterns including oversleeping or insomnia
If symptoms are extreme or unusual contact your doctor to talk about next steps or possible changes to your medication.
5. Be Health-Conscious
Recognize that when taken in conjunction with certain medications or supplements, prescriptions can have effects on the human body. The effectiveness of your prescriptions might decrease when combined with other medications or might cause adverse effects.
Seniors are more likely than other groups to take multiple types of medications on a regular basis. In fact, older adults take five or more prescriptions each day. When prescriptions combine with laxatives, antacids, or painkillers, life-threatening conditions might occur.
In order to be more aware of these possibilities and practice better health-conscious efforts, also monitor your eating habits. Be sure to also share this information with your physician.
Low-fat or high-calcium diets and coffee, tea, and alcohol consumption might make a difference in the way your medication works. According to the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, smoking and alcohol consumption are proven to have a negative effect on medication adherence. So not only do certain diets, foods, and alcohol and smoking reduce the effectiveness of prescriptions, but seniors are more likely to forget to take their medication if they do not practice good health hygiene.
Lastly, certain prescriptions are so specific that they require you to drink an eight-ounce glass of water in conjunction with the medication.