QUESTION: Recently my mom passed away leaving my dad to go it alone. My mom was the family organizer and planner and I am concerned about how my dad will manage. My current concern is whether he is taking his medications correctly. How can I assist him in this area?
ANSWER: Taking medications correctly is very important and once a plan is developed it is not that difficult to take medications as prescribed. The important part is getting organized, understanding how the plan works and then following the plan.
To get started look at what your mom had set-up for your dad and how that plan was handled. Will that plan or parts of that plan still work? If so, build on what your dad has been doing.
If there was no plan or if that plan doesn’t work or if you mom had to continually remind your dad to take his medications then you will need to start from scratch. In setting up a plan there are two people who can help — your dad’s doctor and the pharmacist at the pharmacy where you order your drugs.
First, make an appointment with the doctor and take all of the medications with you so the doctor can review them and determine if all of them are still needed. Also, make sure the doctor explains why your dad needs them and how and when they should be taken. The doctor should also explain the side effects of the drugs and what your dad should do if he forgets to take them when he should. You could also request that the doctor writes an order for a 90-day supply, thus eliminating the need to order refills as often.
Next, go to visit the pharmacist. He or she can help you by offering the service of reminder calls when it is time to refill a prescription. This will eliminate the problem of running out of medications that you have forgotten to order and needing to rush around to obtain the forgotten prescription.
Now you are ready to get organized at home. Keep all of the medications in one place. This eliminates the problem of not being able to find them when it is time to take them. They should be kept in a safe, cool, dark place. The use of a pill box is highly recommended. There are many styles available — the most common one covers a week with spaces labeled for each day of the week and each day of the week divided into time of day (a space for morning and a space for evening.) The pharmacist can assist you in which type pill box would be best for the medications your dad is taking.
The pillbox should be filled weekly. The remaining medications should be left in their original bottles so that there is no mix up as to what they are for and that you can also see when you are running low. I suggest that you fill the box once a week on Sunday; that allows you to monitor the taking of the pills on a weekly basis.
Next make a list of the current medications that shows the name of the drug, the size of the dosage and when and how to take it. This could also be written on a calendar so that it could be crossed off each day when taken.
Until the routine has been in place for a while you might have to call or visit your dad each day to make sure he took his pills as directed. Once the routine is in place and it has become a habit, the calls could be less frequent.
The incorrect taking of medications is an ongoing problem and in many cases results in a visit to the emergency room because someone forgot to take their pills, someone took a double dosage or someone took an incorrect medication. Setting up a plan and making the taking of medications a daily routine could help reduce this type of problem. There are a couple of “never rules” — never take someone else’s pills and never offer your pills to someone else.
March 1, 1 p.m.: “Demystifying Pain Management” presentation at the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging Meeting at the Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks.
March 2, 3:30 p.m.: Travel with Collette slide show on “British Landscapes and Croatia/Slovenia/Adriatic Coast” at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks.
March 15, 1:30-3 p.m.: “How to Avoid Money Scams, Fraud and Identity Theft in 2017” seminar at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village. For information, call the Senior Advocate’s office at 495-6250.