8 Caregiver Tips for Managing Medications

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
12/13/16  4:40 PM PST
managing medications manejo de medicamentos

When your health or that of the person you care for depends on medications, it’s critical to keep track of doses, refills and any interactions. Proper management and education on medications can help to reduce the risk of error and keep busy caregivers well-informed and organized.

8 Caregiver Tips for Managing Medications

  1. Keep track of all medication types
  • Keep a record of all prescription and over-the-counter medications. This includes vitamins, supplements and any natural or homeopathic remedies
  1. Understand the reason why each medicine is needed
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about what a specific medicine is used for
  • Be sure to follow the instructions given by the doctor, exactly as recommended. Do not stop taking a medication unless the doctor advises it
  • If a dose is missed or too much is taken, consult with the doctor
  1. Make a medication list to track medications
  • Create a list or use a medicine record template. On the medication list, include the name of each drug (WHAT), the dosage (AMOUNT), and how often it’s taken (WHEN) and any special instructions. Include a (DESCRIPTION) field and note what the pill looks like
  • If you prefer to use your smartphone for tracking instead a written or typed list, apps such as MyChart have everything you need to manage medications plus health information
  • Hold on to the information sheet that comes with the medicine. Keep it in an accessible location, attach it to your printed list or take a photo of it on your smartphone
  1. Bring your medication list to every doctor appointment
  • It’s important that all doctors on the health care team (including dentists and eye doctors) are aware of all medications being taken
  • Bring your list to all appointments and be sure to keep a copy in an easy to reach place in case of an emergency
  • Inform family members or other caregivers where the list is kept
  1. Consider using a reminder system or calendar
  • A calendar can be helpful to track what medications to take each day and at what time
  • Pill organizers may also be used, although you should consult with the pharmacist or doctor if the medications being used can be stored this way
  • A smartphone pill reminder app is another convenient option
  1. Store medicines as directed
  • Bathrooms are often not the best place to store medications, due to the humidity of the room. A bedside table may be a better location
  • Some medications require very specific storage, such as refrigeration or no exposure to heat, air or light. Read the labels or ask the pharmacist for important details
  • Keep medications out of reach of children and pets
  • Be sure to check expiration dates and place orders for refills well in advance to avoid running out
  1. Be aware of possible side effects
  • Some medications cannot be mixed with other medications, alcohol or certain types of food, and should or should not be taken on an empty stomach
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about changes in medications or new warnings issued on existing prescriptions
  • If new symptoms appear after starting a new medicine, contact the doctor or nurse as soon as possible
  1. Ask your primary doctor to review and oversee all medications
  • Sometimes there are many doctors involved in prescribing medications. It may be helpful to ask the primary doctor to periodically perform a review of the medications being taken. You may ask if there are any medications that are no longer needed
  • If possible, use the same pharmacy for all medications to make it easier for the pharmacist to see a record of your prescriptions when you have a question or concern

For more information about specific medications, Drugs.com offers a pill identifier tool, drug library and other helpful features for caregivers managing medications.

For more information, see related articles and resources here:

The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical care. Please consult with your health care provider with specific questions, concerns or urgent medical situations related to medications.
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