ARTICLES / Sponsor / Ask Dr.
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
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.