A few years ago, my father-in-law experienced a major medical crisis and as a result he was hospitalized. He was in intensive care for a time but eventually gained enough strength so that he was able to return home.

I remember being called over to his home after he was discharged from the hospital so that I could help him settle in and organize his medications for his full-time caregiver.

I sat down with the long list of medications and focused on the task of setting up his pill cassette. There were more than 20 medications, each needing to be administered at varied times throughout the day.

Setting up his medications was an overwhelming experience even with my nursing background and comfort with all things medical. I cannot imagine how a family caregiver without professional medical training might fare in a similar situation.

Medication management is a task frequently undertaken by family caregivers. In fact, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study Caregiving in the US 2015 more than 6 in 10 caregivers assist a loved one with managing their medications.

However, most caregivers do not feel that they are properly prepared to safely manage the medications a loved one is taking.

This lack of understanding is a major source of stress. Having inadequate knowledge about the actions and possible side effects of medications, and the symptoms associated of possible drug interactions, can directly impact a loved one’s quality of life.

As a caregiver, you must often act as the gatekeeper for the medications of a loved one. Although you may not be a medical expert, it is important to take note of medications prescribed to a loved one.

The following are five tips that you may find helpful as you assist your loved one manage his or her medications.

Schedule a Pharmacy Consult

As a caregiver, it is important that you rely on trusted partners to help manage the challenges your loved one may have with medications.

Whether you need assistance with understanding new medications and possible side effects, need help with setting up refills for all prescriptions on the same day each month, setting up delivery or assisting with reminders for your loved one to take their medications, scheduling a pharmacy consult can be of great benefit.

During a pharmacy consult, the pharmacist can go over each medication and help you understand their actions and possible side effects.

The pharmacist can also assist with contacting the doctor so that they can work together to discontinue ineffective medications and also help you to streamline your loved one’s prescriptions so that they are all dispensed at one pharmacy.

Consults can be performed via phone or in person. It is best to contact the pharmacist directly to set up a consult for your loved one.

Schedule a Wellness Visit with Your Loved One’s Pharmacist

A Wellness Prescription visit is similar to an annual physical. During a wellness visit the pharmacist will perform a medication reconciliation and review to make sure that your loved one is adhering to his or her drug regimen and experiencing positive results.

The visit also includes a cost saving analysis, an insurance formulary check, prior authorization assistance with your insurance company and Pharmacogenetic counseling.

It makes perfect sense to schedule a ‘checkup’ for the medications your loved one takes at least once a year. More than one visit may be necessary if you feel your loved one is not getting the desired results or is suffering from side effects from his or her drug regimen.

Seek Out Pharmacogenetic Testing

The average adult over the age of 65 takes seven or more prescription medications. And while most medications are perfectly safe, from time to time you or your loved one may take a medication or a combination of medications that don’t suit your body. As a result, you may end up experiencing an adverse reaction.

Pharmacogenomics is the science behind how your genetic makeup impacts the way you metabolize a particular drug. The PGx test will show what drugs work best for your loved one, but more importantly, what drugs will not work and should be avoided.

This test is ordered by your loved one’s primary physician and will ensure that your loved one is prescribed the right drug at the right dose from the beginning, decreasing the chances he or she will experience an adverse drug reaction.

Maintain a List of Prescribed and Over-the-Counter Medications

Keeping a running tab on medications will aid in maintaining continuity. One tip that may assist in keeping track of medications is to list them by name.

It may also be useful to take that list along each time your loved one has a doctor’s appointment. The key is to keep track of all medications a loved one takes, in addition to keeping the doctor and pharmacist informed.

Medication management can be one of the more complex, yet impactful aspects of caring for a loved one. Pharmacists have long been considered a trusted health care resource.

Reaching out to a pharmacist, or your loved one’s primary physician, is vitally important to successful medication management.

Do you have any best practices that you might share regarding proper management of prescription medications? Please join the conversation below!

Eboni GreenDr. Eboni Green is an author and educator who has a passion for training, supporting, advocating for and educating family and frontline caregivers. She and her husband cofounded Caregiver Support Services, a nonprofit organization that provides training and consulting for caregivers. Dr. Green is a published author and has written three books focusing on family caregiving. You can follow her on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, or connect via LinkedIn.

Let's Have a Conversation!