Of course, that’s easier said than done. Following the doctor’s orders for your loved one’s meds can be tricky, especially when they all come with their own special instructions. Some taken with food, some in the morning, some at night, some once a day, some multiple times. Taken by mouth, by injection, via patch, or tube. It all adds up so fast!
Obviously, your goal is to provide the best possible care for your loved one. Reliable medication management is a small but important part of that. Here are some tips to make it easier and less stressful.
Staying on Track
One of the biggest aspects of managing medication for a cancer patient is making sure they get what they need, when they need it. Aside from scheduling, it’s important you have a record of everything your loved one is taking so you can share that with their healthcare team. One doctor may not know what another has already prescribed.
In short, staying on track and avoiding errors is key. Work with your loved one to create a full list of medications–prescription and over-the-counter–and supplements for easy reference. Make sure the labels are easy to read. If you’re having trouble deciphering any part of the label, request large-print labels in the future.
In your list, include:
- Name of the medication
- Prescribing doctor
- Purpose for medication
- Pharmacy contact details
- Administration instructions
- Any possible side effects
- How long it takes for the medication to work
- Storage, handling, and disposal instructions
- How to take medication in relation to food or fluid, including foods to avoid
- What to do if a dose is missed
- Refill schedule
Avoiding Dangerous Drug Interactions
Include all medications–even ones that weren’t prescribed. Over-the-counter medications, supplements, and vitamins should all be accounted for. If something your loved one is taking could interact with another med, their healthcare team needs to be aware.
If possible, try to have your loved one use the same pharmacy for all their prescriptions. Their pharmacist will be able to spot any drugs that could interact dangerously with each other.
If your loved one isn’t able to manage and administer medication on their own, it will fall to you or someone else involved in their care. Your care plan should include a medication schedule with everyone’s responsibilities clearly defined.
To make administration even smoother, set alarms or daily reminders on your phone for each day’s med schedule. You might also find it helpful to prepare the week’s medications ahead of time. A pill organizer for oral meds is extremely useful here. You can pick one up at just about any pharmacy.
Finally, make sure you’re storing, handling, and disposing of all medications as directed. Keep everything stored safely out of reach of children and track any expiration dates.
Your loved one’s cancer journey will be full of unexpected changes–including to their medication. Things will be added, adjusted, and discontinued as time goes on.
Medication reconciliation is just a fancy way to describe comparing current and older medication lists. Keep a detailed history of everything prescribed or taken over-the-counter. Note dates and details for when a drug is first prescribed or discontinued, or any dosage or administration changes. As a good rule of thumb, make your updates after doctor visits, ER or urgent care visits, and hospitalizations.
Talking to Your Loved One’s Doctor About Medication
If you’re authorized to discuss your loved one’s medical history with their doctor, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to ask questions about their medication. You or your loved one should contact your healthcare provider about medication if:
- Your loved one misses a dose and you don’t know what to do.
- Your loved one is experiencing side effects that interfere with their quality of life, like speech or memory issues, drowsiness, muscle weakness, depression, insomnia, confusion, rashes, or incontinence.
- The medication isn’t working.
- Your loved one has a hard time taking meds as prescribed (difficulty swallowing, etc.)
- A prescribed medication isn’t covered by your loved one’s insurance. Their doctor may be able to point them toward financial assistance resources, or a drug alternative.
- The medication comes from a specialty pharmacy.
Managing your loved one’s medications as a cancer caregiver is a tall order, but a bit of planning and organization will make it so much easier.