I’m Handling Mom’s Medications… HELP!

A Recipe for Success.

After two trips to the Emergency Room for dizziness and some disorientation, it was determined that Nicole’s mom was confusing her medications. She was seriously dehydrated, which brought her blood pressure down, as she had been taking four of her diuretic medications each day… instead of one. All nurses will well remember these words: “Right Med, Right Dose, Right Time, Right Route, and Right Patient.” The five “R’s” of accurate medication administration are a recipe for success. We must be correct, clear, consistent, and compliant when it comes to medication management.

Stories like the one about Nicole’s mom are daily occurrences in our local Emergency Rooms. It doesn’t take much for an elder to get mixed up regarding accurate medication administration. When a mix up occurs, there can be a cascade of medical events that follow, with some being very serious and potentially catastrophic. Luckily for this family, her mother’s situation was easily remedied by using a medication box that Nicole filled weekly.

A Broken System

Pharmacies often offer an “automatic renewal” option for medications. A seemingly convenient choice, however, when the medication dose is changed/discontinued, your elder continues to pick it up at the pharmacy, and perhaps, take it along with their other meds. If when you open the medicine cabinet, or where ever the numerous bottles of outdated/discontinued medications are kept, you are immediately overwhelmed… that’s normal. At least now you know that their system needs to be fixed.

Where Do You Begin?

Start by gathering a list of all current medications. A simple call to your loved one’s Primary Care Physician’s office can get you this list. It’s imperative to keep this master list of medications completely accurate. Do a bit of research to find out what medications EACH of your loved one’s Physicians are prescribing. Make sure that “the right-hand knows what the left is doing.” As much as we hope that our team of healthcare professionals communicate effectively with each other, that’s not always the case.

How will you possibly manage this? “It’s so confusing,” you say. Well… yes, it is, but it can be accomplished.

Five Tips to Get Your Senior Loved One’s Medication Management Under Control

  • Get an accurate list of medications from all prescribers.

  • Compare this list against what the pharmacy is dispensing.

  • Explore a dosing system. Blister packs are available through most local pharmacies. A “bister pack” is a cardboard sheet with “blisters” for each dose that are pre-poured and labeled.

  • Initiate the use of a medication box that can be filled on a weekly basis and move all remaining medications out of sight.

  • Remove all outdated/discontinued meds from the home.

Most Police Stations offer a medication disposal box to discard old or unused medications. Tablet and liquid medications are accepted, just no “sharps.”

If you find this process unmanageable or overwhelming, Aberdeen Home Care can help. We can provide professional nursing assistance to get you started with a system that will work and keeps your elder taking only those medications that meet the five “R’s” mentioned above. Getting their medications under control can bring great peace of mind to your family and can give you the confidence that a medication error is unlikely to occur.

Written by Joanne MacInnis, RN and Certified Dementia Practitioner.

Originally published in the Manchester Cricket Newspaper, May 2018. 

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