Medication safety: what caregivers need to know

Medication safety: what caregivers need to know

Avoiding drug reactions

As a caregiver, medication safety is vital. Keeping a list of current medications is an important first step to help the person you’re caring for avoid drug reactions, overdoses, or complications.

You can review the medication list for the person in your care with a pharmacist to identify if there are any drugs that should not be taken together. The pharmacist or doctor can also help educate both of you about potential medication side effects.

To avoid overdoses and make sure drugs work like they are supposed to, it is important that the person you care for takes medications at the right times and in the right dosages.

Medication safety also extends to over-the-counter products. In addition to any medication that is prescribed, it is important to also share information about any over-the-counter medication including naturopathic medicine and vitamins that are being taken.  

Ontario has a medication safety program called MedsCheck. This is a program that allows you to book a free annual 20-30 minute meeting with your community pharmacist to discuss medication safety. Other pharmacies also have their own medication safety programs to help you review medications and give advice on how they should be taken and stored.

To avoid overdoses and make sure drugs work like they are supposed to, it is important that the person you care for takes medications at the right times and in the right dosages.

You can purchase special dosettes at a drug store. Dosettes have compartments to organize all the medications that need to be taken each day.

Pharmacies can also prepare blister packs to reduce the confusion of which pills to take when and to act as a prompt that the medications have been taken.

Old and expired medications can also pose problems. As part of your medication safety checklist it is a good idea to go through all medications on a regular basis and properly discard those that have passed their expiry date.

Medication safety checklist for home

  • Check all medications, including over-the-counter medications, for expiry dates and dispose of them appropriately; do not allow anyone to take an expired medication.
  • Do not put out-of-date or unused medication in the garbage or down the toilet or sink; check to see if your pharmacy has a drug recycling program that disposes of unused or expired drugs in an environmentally safe manner.
  • Ensure the person you care for takes the medication as prescribed; don’t let them stop taking a drug part way through the course of treatment (unless they are having a serious adverse reaction) without first discussing it with their doctor.
  • Check medications picked up from the pharmacy to ensure they are correct, have the right name on the prescription, and are what the person is used to taking (i.e. the pill is still small and pink not large and green); follow up with the pharmacy regarding any medication discrepancies.
  • Medicine should be taken only by the individual for whom it is prescribed – never take prescription medicine that wasn’t prescribed for you, even if you have the same medical condition.
  • Encourage the person you care for to take their medication where there is enough light to read medication instructions and to see the medication.
  • Keep medication out of the sight and out of reach of children.
  • Consider using a dosette or blister pack provided by the pharmacy.
  • Report any adverse reactions to any medication, even over-the-counter medications or supplements, to the doctor right away.

Medication safety when you are with the doctor

  • Be sure the doctor knows all of the medications the person you are caring for is taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal remedies.
  • Be sure the doctor knows about any allergies or adverse reactions they have had to any medication in the past.
  • If the doctor writes the prescription by hand, make sure you can read it, and ask for clarification if needed.
  • Ask the doctor to write down on the prescription what the medicine is used for – not just “take once a day” but “take once a day for high blood pressure.” 

Medication safety when you are with the pharmacist

  • Take advantage of the service offered to review medications with a pharmacist when you pick them up, and also ask for written information so that you can refer to it at a later time.
  • If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, be sure to ask – medicine labels can be hard to understand (for example, ask if “four doses daily” means taking a dose every six hours around the clock or just during regular waking hours).
  • Whenever possible, try to use the same pharmacy so your pharmacist can keep a record of all your medications and give you the best advice.

Medication safety and managing medications for someone else can be complicated, and it is important to get it right.

If you feel nervous or unsure of your ability to help the person you are caring for with their medications, seek help from trusted health professionals and other people in your network, and don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider, the doctor, or the pharmacist for their assistance and advice.

 

Comments

Close

Order a Service

()-
(UTC - 05:00)
Close

Want to order service?

 

Or drop us your email address, and we'll get back to you:


 

Have a question?
Chat live with a member of our care solutions team Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm!

Live Chat
Close

Share Your Caregiver Story

We review and post new submissions weekly and we are always looking for new “Faces of Caregiving”.

Yes, you may post my submission and contact me.
Close

Have a Caregiving Question?

Submit your caregiving question to our experts. Our experts review the questions we receive regularly, and we share our responses to the questions that we think are most relevant to the whole community.

Yes, you may post my submission and contact me.
Close

Contact us to discuss your results

 

Have a question?
Chat live with a member of our care solutions team Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm!

Live Chat
 
 

Or drop us your email address, and we'll get back to you: