Managing multiple medications can be a full time job.
Until the last year of my father’s life I did not understand what a complex process it can be when doctors need to prescribe medication for patients with chronic illnesses. Or the effort it takes for a patient to be compliant. (Jump to Lessons Learned)
For eight years after his heart attack, dad managed his failing heart through activity, eating right and taking his medications faithfully. He had a coronary stent implanted when the attack occurred and several years later, a defibrillator. But progression of congestive heart failure cannot be stopped, only slowed down.
The last year and a half of his life I accompanied him on multiple doctor visits: cardiologist; primary care; urologist; renal specialist. If I was traveling for work we were lucky that a family friend, who is a nurse, went with him in my place. Dad allowed us into the examination room, giving verbal consent to his doctors to discuss test results, prognosis and ask all the questions we needed.
Listening to the doctors I came to appreciate that prescribing medications for a chronic illness requires a delicate balance between managing conflicting medical needs, interactions and side effects. Watching dad manage his medications towards the end of his life, I came to realize the effort it took for him to be diligent about taking his medication, and updating his list of prescriptions.
Keep a list of medications that is constantly updated. It should include all medications, dosage, and directions on when to take them. This is key, especially if you visit multiple doctors. Dad took his list to every doctor visit and more than once had to correct what was in the doctor’s files. He kept a version in his wallet and the day I took him to the emergency room, being able to pull that list out was a literally life saver. Dad’s medication list template is available here in the following formats:
- Excel 97-2003 Medication list v 97-2003
- Excel 10 Medication list v 10
- Word (compatibility mode) Medication list
- Article from Consumer Reports: Managing multiple drugs.pdf; or search on: drug safety managing multiple drugs consumer reports
Someone has to own all the prescribed medications:
- Typically, your primary care doctor manages your prescription drugs, so review your medication list at every visit. Consider scheduling an appointment with your pharmacist to review the medication list and help spot drug interactions. Use one pharmacy for all medications so that monitoring for drug interactions is done in one place.
- Read the pamphlets that come with the prescription. Understand the side effects of each drug so you can explain any new symptoms to your doctor. If the pamphlets are overwhelming say NO when your pharmacist asks you if you understand how to take the drug or it’s side effects and then have them explained to you.
- If you use a mail order pharmacy, check to see if they monitor medications. There should be doctors and pharmacists on staff that review prescriptions for drug interactions. If a drug interaction is noticed they will hold up shipment in order to contact the doctor and patient.
- If you take expensive drugs, you should be able to take your own drugs in the hospital, but double check. Bring the drug in its original container with the original label. The hospital pharmacy adds a bar code so it can be documented in your chart when you take it. Source: AARP Bulletin March 2018.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.