Realizing the importance your medication plays in your treatment will help you get the most benefit from your prescription. It is important to take an active role in your health care by being a participating member of your own health care team. Work with your doctor, nurse, and pharmacist to learn as much as possible about your prescription.
Here are some questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist when you are prescribed a new medication, and suggestions on how to safely manage medications at home.
1. Ask for the name of the medicine, including generic and brand name. This can help avoid prescription mistakes. When your doctor prescribes you a new medication, disclose the names of all the medicines you are currently taking, including all supplements, over-the-counter and prescription medications. State any allergies to any medication.
2. Ask for indications, exactly what is this medication prescribed for.
3. Ask for possible side effects and what to do in case of an adverse reaction.
4. Ask for dose and frequency to be taken.
5. How is the medication to be taken? The most common routes for medication’s administration are orally or by mouth, injection; or topically or locally applied such as creams or eye drops.
6. Are there special instructions while taking this medication such as foods, use of alcohol, other medicines; or activities you should avoid while taking this medicine? Ask about any specifics such as take with food, take on an empty stomach, do not crush or activities to avoid such as driving, use of machinery, swimming or exposure to sunlight.
Is there any written information you can take home? Most pharmacies have information sheets that you can use as an at-home reference.
If a doctor is prescribing a medication that is to be taken multiple times a day ask if it can be substituted for a prescription that is equally as effective but given only once or twice a day, thus reducing chance of forgetting to take the medication and even be more cost effective.
Ask if the medication is available in both generic and brand name, ask the pharmacist the difference between the two and decide based on that information. In many instances is more beneficial to request the generic name versus the brand name.
7. How many refills of the prescription are allowed? Some drugs and medication’s management plans have the option to purchase multiple refills at once, up to three months’ supply, for medications that are to be taken for a long-term or are part of the patient’s permanent treatment plan. Usually this system is more cost-effective for the customer.
Ask the doctor for samples, especially if it’s a medication that will be for short-term use, or if you are doing a trial.
8. What should you do if you miss a dose? What should you do if you accidentally take more than the recommended dose?
9. Ask for alternative’s prescription form that best suits you or your patient’s needs. If your child cannot swallow pills, request the medication on liquid form if available. The same applies for the elderlies or adult patient who has difficulty swallowing.
Do not change the form of any medication without speaking to your pharmacist. Some medications can be crushed, chopped and mixed with apple sauce or juice whereas some medicine is unsuitable in any other than the original form. Always ask before altering a medication’s form. Sustained release pills should not be crushed, and some capsules should not be opened.
During your treatment, you may want to schedule a follow-up visit with your physician in order to monitor your progress. Make sure to report any problems or side effects you are experiencing with your prescription.
Drugs and medications safety management.
One in three hospital discharge results in re admissions due to noncompliance with medication’s regimen or miss uses of medications after discharge from the hospital.
Two in five pediatrics Emergency Department visits are related to medications use, misuse or accidental ingestion.
Millions of elderlies and disabled people are being over medicated due to the lack of a centralized system that will monitor patient’s prescriptions and treatments.
A few simple precautions to avoid medication’s incidents, whether in adults or children
1. Keep all medications away from children reach.
2. Use child proof caps on medication’s bottles if possible. Some adults may have difficulty opening bottles with child-proof caps due to pain on their hands, weakness caused by a stroke or other conditions.
3. Medication’s labels should be clear and easy to read. If the labels on the bottles are worn off, take the medication bottle to the pharmacy and ask for a new label.
4. When the patient is discharged from a hospital admission, ask the clinician to reconcile all the patient’s medications to be taken at home.
5. Ask questions to the pharmacist before leaving the pharmacy after picking up the medication.
6. Make good use of a medication dispensing system such as a pillbox.
7. Make good use of medication’s reminders. There are many medication’s reminders systems in the market; many of them are free services. Many pharmacies offer services for refill reminders.
8. Create a medication record listing all the medications used, update it frequently and carry a copy with you at all times. Take the medications list to every physician’s appointment and share it with the attending physician and specialist.
9. Follow the golden rule while taking or administering a medication.
• The Right Patient
• The Right Medication
• The Right Dose
• The Right Time
• The Right Route
Ileana Perez is a Registered Nurse and Health Educator. She is the founder and CEO of thecaregiverconsole.com – an e-coaching website designed specifically for caregivers of the terminally ill and elderly. Ileana has amassed over 40 years of experience working as a Registered Nurse in the emergency department and operating room, as well as working as a home-care nurse. Having served as the caregiver of her late parents, Ileana knows firsthand the struggles that a caregiver faces while providing for the elderly. If you or someone you know is a caregiver who is in need of direction, support or information, visit