By M. Simon
One of the common issues that caregivers
have to deal with on a daily basis is the
need to dispense their care recipient’s
medication in a safe and timely fashion.
Navigating the dangerous waters of different
pill sizes, colors and dosages can be an
intimidating experience as most family
members and home care workers possess
neither an in-depth knowledge of these
medications nor the ability to discern when
a problem with the pills may be developing.
Elderly and infirm clients often seem to be
on a never ending slew of pills that need to
be doled out on a regular basis. It doesn’t
matter that the clients have accumulated
them honestly, usually a few at a time
during each hospital admission; but the sum
total is what the home care worker, family
member or employee, must face every day on
In past years, medications were often
dispensed three or four times per day or
worse. Thankfully, in our modern day, each
medication only has to be taken once or
twice every twenty-four hour period. The
downside is that there are a lot more
diseases we can treat and consequently a lot
more pills people can consume.
In an effort to decrease the angst this
process can cause and keep the client on a
safe and effective regime, there are several
simple rules one can follow.
First of all, it’s a good idea to keep all
medications in a safe and secure place.
Playful grandchildren, nosey visitors and
even confused patients will get into the
pill bottles if they’re left unattended.
Some medications have to be refrigerated,
but most can be safely stored in a secure
cupboard. Pharmacies, in an effort to keep
your business, have developed blister packs
that link the pills with specific days of
the week. So, in the middle of a busy day,
if the caregiver suddenly wonders “Did I
give him his morning pills?” all it takes is
a quick look at the package to confirm that,
yes, it was given. In the same vein, all
medications should be administered at the
same time every day. Modern pills have been
designed for specific durations and
maintaining a regular dosing schedule will
decrease the risk of adverse reactions.
Not to overstate the obvious, but dosages of
drugs should not be changed without first
consulting the client’s physician. The old
adage “If one is good, two is better” does
not apply in these situations. Playing with
the dosages of blood thinners, heart pills
and pain killers can easily have unforeseen
and unfortunate side effects.
Despite what the infomercials say, don’t
start using over-the-counter products,
herbs, vitamins and supplements without
first discussing it with a physician. Not
only is quality control for these products
somewhat lacking (as compared to
prescription medications), but they may
interact with the client’s normal
medications by increasing or decreasing the
medicinal concentration in the body.
Check the expiry date on the prescription
bottle. Medications that are only used on an
as-needed basis may become ineffective if
left too long on the shelf. A good example
would be nitroglycerin pills for chest pain
or a ventolin inhaler for an asthma
exacerbation. The one time you need it could
be the time you discover it’s out of date.
Likewise, it’s prudent to double check the
prescriptions that are picked up from the
pharmacy against a home list of medications
being given. The employees filling the
prescription are human too (and often
pharmacy assistants) and can make mistakes.