Managing Your Loved One's Medication: Tips for Family Caregivers

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The challenge with pill boxes is "they have to be filled correctly, and they take the organization and discipline to use them," he said.

If filling the pill box is too much for your loved one, try to fill it yourself or have a trusted neighbor or relative stop by and help keep the medicine organized.

Develop Good Habits

"Developing some regular habits when one takes medicine is important," Alexander said.

Try taking medicine while brushing your teeth or right when you wake up or go to bed.

"If you take your medicine habitually alongside something you regularly do, it links the two actions" and makes it easier to remember to follow your treatment, Alexander said.

Use One Pharmacy

Turning to one pharmacy for all of your prescriptions can help prevent drug interactions and make getting refills easy.

Most pharmacies offer automatic refills, sometimes with phone reminders that it's time to pick up your medicine.

Some pharmacies also have computerized programs for dispensing medication that alerts pharmacists to potential drug interactions. "Take advantage of the technology available," Wooten said.

Your pharmacist can also become an important resource; don't be afraid to ask your pharmacists questions about your medication or refills, or about over-the-counter treatments.

Maintain Dialogue With Your Loved One

You can help your loved one adhere to their treatment and avoid negative medication situations, whether you live next door or across the country. "A simple query is often enough to detect signals of potential problems," Alexander said.

If you're able to visit your loved one frequently and supervise treatment, some things to think about include signs of pill hoarding, a lot of medicines that appear to be lying around but not completed or used, or evidence that refills haven't been picked up on time.

Talk to Your Loved One

Do you notice problems in your loved one's organization in other aspects of their life? If they're falling behind on paying their bills, unable to drive safely or shop for themselves, those may be signals they might have trouble following their medical treatment, Alexander said.

If they're taking more than five medicines a day, it might be time to step in and help them stay organized.

It's OK to Be Overwhelmed

Alexander said he tells his patients they're not the only ones who have trouble keeping up with treatment or staying on top of multiple therapies. "I tell them many of my patients have trouble taking their medicines each day," he said, and then asks if his patient has any problems at all with their medication.

"As a loved one, as a caregiver, it's important to de-stigmatize the societal problem," Alexander said. "Setting a tone that's supporting and coming from a point of advocacy rather than criticizing the patient or passing judgment is important."

For more tips and information for family caregivers, turn to resources such as the National Family Caregivers Association, AARP and the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

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