Have you ever looked at a cupboard full of medications and felt overwhelmed? Maybe you’re having trouble keeping track of all your prescriptions or trying to administer medication to multiple family members. Perhaps you’re worried about medication side effects or whether a medication is contraindicated. Either way, there are resources available for medication organization to help you maintain peace of mind.
Medication Administration: 6 Rights
You may have heard of the “6 rights” of medication administration. This refers to the six things that should be checked every time you take medication (or give it to a loved one). While the list is intended as a checklist for nurses administering medication, it’s also a helpful guide for taking your own medication or giving it to an elderly loved one.
Always make sure you have the right drug and the right dosage, administered at the right time and by the right route, given to the right patient with the right documentation.
- Right drug: Double-check to make sure you have the correct medication.
- Right dosage: Always check the dosing instructions on the label — don’t go from memory! It may help to organize pills by dose and day using a medication organizer.
- Right time: Check the instructions from your pharmacist or doctor — some medications need to be taken at a specific time of day or have requirements on whether they should be taken with or without food.
- Right route: Most of your medications are probably oral (i.e., a pill taken by mouth), but you may also have nasal sprays, eye drops, or another form of medication. Always make sure to administer medication correctly.
- Right patient: If there are multiple people taking medication in the family, always make sure you’re taking the correct one. Check the label on prescription medication, and use a medication journal to make sure you’re taking the correct over the counter medications or supplements for you.
- Right documentation: While this is more pertinent to medical professionals, it can also be helpful to document which medication you take when. Use a medication journal or app to mark each time you take a medication, so you have a record to show your doctor if necessary.
Many resources will add an additional item, a seventh right: right reason, or indication for use. Each medication is intended to treat certain conditions or symptoms, and it shouldn’t be taken where it’s not indicated (just like you wouldn’t take a painkiller to help with asthma). Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions about whether a medication is indicated in your case.
Talk About It: How Your Doctor Can Help
You may be wondering, “Is this medication safe for me? Can I take it with my other medications? Is this side effect normal?” Starting a new medication can lead to a lot of questions. Your doctor can explain any side effects, whether it’s safe for you to take a new medication with your existing ones, and whether a medication is contraindicated in your case. They can also make sure you get medication refills on time.
Some medications aren’t safe for those with certain health conditions, and others should be avoided for older adults. Always check the prescribing information on a new medication, and talk with your doctor about any health conditions. Your doctor can tell you whether a medication is contraindicated in your case or whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Possible Side Effects and Interactions
Always tell your doctor and any other physician about all the medications you take. Don’t forget vitamins and supplements! A medication journal can help you remember them all. There are plenty of digital medication journal apps to help keep all of the details straight, as well. If you’re worried about side effects or have any questions about whether a new medication will interact with what you’re already taking, bring it up to your doctor.
Keeping Track of It All
As you get older, it can be difficult to keep track of your medications — what to take, when to take it, and what you can safely take it with. In addition, if you have an older loved one with memory challenges, you may need a medication lock box to keep them safe and prevent an accidental overdose. Here are some tips for medication management and keeping track of it all.
Keep a Medication Journal
Have you ever drawn a blank when the doctor asks what medications you take? If you’re taking several different medications, it can be easy to forget one or two. A digital medication journal can help you keep track of everything you’re taking, including supplements and vitamins. You can also use it to write down any questions you have for the doctor, so you can remember to ask at your next visit.
A medication journal can be as simple as a small notebook where you write down each medication and dosage, or you can use a planner, calendar, or even an app.
Oral Medication Organizers
If you’re having trouble remembering which medications to take when, or whether you’ve taken your pills, try a pill organizer. (Here are some nice-looking options, if you prefer to be more subtle with your pill case.) These will let you organize pills into slots for each day, and even different times of day. Do you take some in the morning and some in the evening? Just open the slot for the right time of day and take the pills inside. No need to worry about whether you’ve taken your pills already, or figure out which ones to take.
Online Drug Interaction Checkers
While you should always talk to your doctor about new medications, you may also want to do your own research. Use an online drug interaction checker to check whether anything you or a loved one are taking could interact with any other medications, supplements, or foods. Find out if a medication is contraindicated for your health conditions and whether there are other substances — such as certain foods or alcohol — that should be avoided.
Medication Lock Box
If you’re taking care of an older loved one with memory challenges, or if there are young children in the house, you may need to keep medications out of reach to avoid an accidental overdose. Use a medication lock box to keep medications safe and out of reach. Not sure if a medication lock box is right for you? Speak with your doctor or health care professional to find out if this might be a good fit for you.
Medication Management Apps and Charts
While a simple medication journal could be sufficient, your or your loved one’s medication needs may be more complex. Maybe you have several different medications that need to be taken at different times of day, or before and after meals, or with other specific requirements. If you have a smartphone, a medication management app can help you keep track of everything and make sure you take medications on time. If you’re not comfortable using an app, try keeping a paper chart.
When You Need Extra Help
Medication management can feel overwhelming at times. Fortunately, there are places that offer more extensive help and guidance. Senior living communities provide a safe, friendly, comfortable environment for their residents. They offer many services, including medication management. Kathy Tucker, the Community Relations Manager at Tribute at Black Hill in Germantown, Maryland, says that medication management is one of the most popular services they offer. “We always tell our residents that they need two things: proper nutrition, and to take their medications as prescribed.” Kathy continued, “We offer medication management at Tribute at Black Hill, and about 90% of our residents take us up on it. The medication management we offer is important to ensuring the well being of our residents.”
If medication management is becoming too much for you to keep track of, or you’re looking for more support for yourself or your loved one, you’re invited to learn about available services at Cadence Living. These include independent living, assisted living, Cadence CONNECTIONS care, memory care, and more. We offer a full-service approach that includes both social and physical activities to help our residents enjoy thriving lifestyles. Call today to schedule a tour in one of our modern aging communities and talk to one of our caregiving experts.