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Managing Medication

What comes to your mind when you think of medications for your “at-need” loved ones? Proper administration is most likely among the first three. Why? Because your loved ones need your help making sure they get the correct dosage at the right time. Whether you are taking care of elderly, children, special needs, mentally impaired, or many other need-based categories, your “patient’s” drug therapy is an essential part of their healthcare treatment and adherence and compliance are critical for their well-being. More than likely it becomes your responsibility to manage this medication therapy, so let’s discuss ways to assist you with this task.

Let’s take a closer look at your major challenges: First, there are multiple medications - very often filled at different pharmacies. Are you sure that your patient’s medication profile is up-to-date at all of these pharmacies? Have you thought about using only one Pharmacy - possibly a Pharmacy that delivers to you? Next, you may have a change in one of the prescriptions from your last doctor visit but the old vial is still in your cadre of meds. Does your patient know that they should not take it anymore? Does your patient complain about any new symptoms that might be side effects of the newly prescribed medication? Finally, does your patient remember when they should take each of his prescriptions during the day? Before meal or after? In the morning or at bedtime? How often do you see time-specific instructions on the pharmacy label? Isn’t it frustrating that so many doctors simply write “once daily” without telling patients about preferred administration time?

Of course, you can assist your clients by using 7-day pill dispensers and/or daily dispensers with AM/Noon/PM/HS compartments, but do you know there are other packaging options? More convenient, reliable, patient-friendly, that can be taken out for a day trip to the park or to go to their relatives’ house for a couple of days? Pharmacies and Pharmacists in particular seem to be overlooked but are a valuable resource in your efforts to properly administer medication to your loved ones. These healthcare professionals can be a valuable tool in your daily drug dispensing responsibility – especially if you are caring for your patient in their own home.

In normal Long Term Care facilities, “compliance packaging” is the norm for holding and dispensing medications as these packages assist the nurse practitioners in completing a MAR or medication administration record after each drug dispensing event. These “compliance packaging” options are bubble packs/blister cards/bingo cards (square cards that hold 30 individual days of medication) or strip packaging (think of 30 connected plastic ketchup packets containing medication that you can tear from the roll). All pertinent information about the patient and drug administration can be listed on both types of packaging (i.e. patients name, time to take medications, food/drug interactions to understand, color coded as to time of day, etc.)

Big Box retail Pharmacies will not have these types of packing ability because they usually do not service the LTC business, so you will need to shop around for an independent Pharmacy that has both retail and LTC business. Treating your patient as though they resided in a LTC environment with respect to medication packaging will result in two key beneficial results: 1. It will assist you in determining if the medication was taken correctly when you are not available to administer, and 2. It will assist your patient in knowing if they have taken or need to take their medication.

What other medication administration challenges have you faced or possibly overcome? Have you enlisted the help of your Pharmacist in these challenges? Do you have any suggestions on handling medication?

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