Well, there are so many points where errors can occur. Here are a few:
A new doctor prescribes a medication that doesn’t work well with your elder’s current meds. This could happen if the new doc doesn’t have a complete list of current meds, or if no one asks about how the meds might work (or not work) together.
Your elder uses one pharmacy for maintenance meds and a different pharmacy for short-term meds like antibiotics. If the new pharmacy doesn’t know what maintenance meds are being taken, they might not know to counsel your elder on possible conflicts.
The residence facility where your elder lives got a new doctor order after your elder has been at a rehab facility. The new order might conflict with maintenance meds.
There are new staff members at the residence facility that don’t give your elder the meds at the correct time.
Your elder goes to the hospital without a list of current meds and the hospital pulls up an old med list from a prior visit.
Their prescription drug allergies are not listed on their med sheet.
And on, and on…
So what’s a person to do?
First of all, create and keep up-to-date a list of current medications that your elder takes, the dosage for each and the timing of the dosage. Don’t forget to list any allergies they may have. Make sure your elder has a copy in their purse or wallet; you keep a copy with you.
Insist on a care conference with staff of any facility (residence, hospital, rehab) when your parent first arrives to go over current medications. At the hospital, this can be a mini-conference with the nursing staff when your elder arrives or when they are transferred from one unit to another (i.e. ICU to regular floor).
If new meds are prescribed at a specialist doc visit, share this with your elder’s primary care office. Also share with the nursing director or wellness nurse at your elder’s facility. Double check after a few days to make sure the new meds have been entered into the elder’s chart and/or they are being dosed according to orders.
If your parent fills their own med box (like the 7 day kind), double check while you’re there to make sure their dosages are correct and dispensed at the right time of day.
If you ever have any questions about contraindications for meds, your elder’s pharmacist can answer them. If not the pharmacist, there’s usually a 24-hour help line available from most Rx insurance plans (like Humana).
Don’t go overboard reading and panicking with the “reading material” that is included with most prescriptions – but it is wise to glance through the sections that list the possible side effects and any cautions they discuss.
Make sure both the mail-order pharmacy and the retail pharmacy have the most up-to-date info on your elder’s complete list of meds and any allergies they may have.
If your elder is living at a facility, include a review of their meds whenever you have a care conference or health review with the nursing staff.
Medications are kind of like wallpaper, once we get used to taking them, they just become part of the overall scenario. We don’t really think about questioning the doc about how new meds might interact with current meds. We don’t often think to double check our parent’s pill box to make sure they are dispensing correctly.
If you need to, set a reminder in your phone or on your calendar to check the next time you take your parent to the doctor, the next time you’re over visiting with your elder or when you pick up refills at their pharmacy.
Be vigilant, be aware and be inquisitive. Those are the best tips for making sure your elder’s meds do what they are intended to do, and not what they aren’t.
If you’re interested in a cheat sheet that I’ve developed for listing current meds in an easy-to-use format, sign up for notification when they’re available for download from my website. https://whitewingdesign.wufoo.com/forms/zf4ykzc1t13igs/
Prescription Drug Checks for Seniors
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