Chances are you talk to your financial advisor more than the professionals who prescribe and oversee your medications. Unfortunately, according to data from the CDC, “Older adults (65 years or older) visit emergency departments almost 450,000 times each year, more than twice as often as younger persons due to an adverse drug event (ADE).”
Both your primary care physician (PCP) and your pharmacist are trained to oversee potential drug interactions. There are several issues when you only depend on your PCP for this type of reconciliation.
First, they are not always aware when another doctor has prescribed a new medication, changed a dosage or OK’d a generic version. This is why it is so important to keep a list of current medications, including dosages and the specifics on how they are to be taken, to every doctor appointment. Make sure that any over-the-counter drugs from vitamins to pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol are on the list as well. When the nurse asks if any of your medications have changed, this list will help keep your records accurate.
The second issue is the limited amount of time allotted for your appointment. You may feel pressured not to ask any medication questions due to limited time and the need to understand a diagnosis or recommended changes.
Most people do not. But it is important to understand any potential side effects. Without knowing what to watch out for, you put yourself in grave danger.
If you don’t read the pamphlets, then be sure to say YES when the pharmacist asks if you have any questions. Ask them to explain how to take the drug (with or without food, time of day, can it be split etc.) and to explain any side effects.
Many mail order pharmacies and prescription insurers have doctors and pharmacists on staff who can answer these same questions for you.
If possible, stick with a single pharmacy. It doesn’t matter if it is online or down the street. Limiting where you fill your prescriptions makes it easier to avoid medication errors like dosing, duplications (prescription and over the counter), omissions and drug interactions.
If your loved one shows a sudden change in behavior from confusion to excessive sleep, a drug interaction should be the first thing explored. After all, bodies change, and the efficacy of drugs can be impacted by these changes.
Some things need to be closely monitored by you and your elder’s PCP. For example, if your loved one is diabetic and there has been a significant weight change, it is time to revisit the dosage of the diabetic drug or insulin they are on. In this situation, your PCP needs to update the dosage.
October 21 each year is National Check Your Meds Day. It is an outreach sponsored by the National Community Pharmacists Association. However, once a year is probably not enough for your elder. A reconciliation of medications should be done for every transition of care. This includes when new medications are ordered, or existing orders are changed. Care transitions are also defined as changes in setting, service, practitioner or level of care.
Since your pharmacist is trained in medication reconciliation, including them as an integral part of your care team is a wise idea. The other critical member to have on your team is a Springpoint at Home nurse. A Springpoint at Home registered nurse will keep detailed electronic medication records. They collaborate with your pharmacist to get questions about what your loved one takes answered and explain it in an understandable way. Managing medications is an ongoing job made easier with Springpoint at Home as part of your team.
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