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Ask Doctor Shane

Q.  As my parents have aged, they are on more medications.  I worry about their effect and if they are taking them correctly. What should I be doing to help them and reassure me?

A.  This is a question I hear a lot.  There is no doubt that individuals across this country are taking more medications. More drugs are being developed to counteract everything from simple ailments to cancer. But this abundance of medications can create problems, particularly for caregivers. And keeping up with the medications is an even bigger challenge. I’d suggest two things to address usage and accuracy.

First, have a personal relationship with your pharmacist. Those of you who have heard me speak at Fearless Caregiver Conferences have heard me talk about this. So many of us can call our doctor, veterinarian, child’s coach or accountant by name. Why not get to know the person who is filling our medications? You’ll find that pharmacists are valuable resources for you.  They understand the drugs that have been prescribed and what they are intended to do, so they can make certain you’re taking them correctly for the best possible outcome.  They can help you manage the medications that you are taking or that you are helping your parents or other loved ones take. 

Second, organize your pills.  Medication mistakes have become a major problem with the increase in medications, and so many of the mistakes are simply that—unintentional errors in dosage or delivery. Deaths from medication mistakes at home increased from 1,132 deaths in 1983 to 12,426 in 2004. Adjusted for population growth, that amounts to an increase of more than 700 percent during that time. The increase in deaths was highest among baby boomers, people in their 40s and 50s. These findings, based on nearly 50 million U.S. death certificates, were published earlier this year by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The fact that deaths have risen dramatically in a relatively short period is evidence that the medication management system has changed. More dosage management of a wider range of drugs, including painkillers, is now in the hands of the patient, many of whom are older and less able to manage a large number of medications.

It is clear that we must do better to manage medication safety. Taking care of our loved ones—and their medications—will become an even bigger job in the future.  Knowing your pharmacist can be the key to managing both the caregiver role and your peace of mind.
 
 
 
 

 


 

 




 



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