Monday, November 16, 2015

Medication Management 101 for Veteran Caregivers

VeteranCaregiver received this message recently:  “Hi, I'm new to this [caregiving] and yet, I'm thrown in the deep end and need to manage 19 daily medications; can you help? No one will help me manage this now that we’re home!”

This is a challenge many caregivers confront and you are not alone.  There was even a television news photo (below) of a plastic grocery bag of meds for a single month – now that's a visual!  Many veterans are on multiple medications and as caregiver, keeping track of the medications is one thing, and tracking the effects of them is another.  It’s critical to start at the beginning:  create a Medication Log.  If you are hurt, absent, or sick, someone else may need to step in, so this is not an empty exercise.
CBS News Image 2014
You probably have a notebook, binder, or journal you keep appointments in, or some way to track this medical journey.  Add to your system the Medication Log, and note the drugs, dosages, time of day to take, and learn what each medication is for.  There are many good apps that consolidate this information for you.   In the large medical bureaucracy, and with the lack of fully centralized records, share this Medication Log at appointments to be sure each practitioner knows of the med prescriptions.  Every time a drug is changed, dosage adjusted, or medication removed, keep an eye out for any changes in behavior that might be connected.  YOU are the one living with the vet day in, day out, and you'll notice these things sooner than anyone.   

It’s important to know that meds mailed to your home should be called in earlier than needed to allow for on-time delivery, and be especially aware of months with 31 days in them with an automated system. If the 30th is on a Friday, it has happened that the mailed prescriptions may arrive after the weekend, meaning that well-managed pain or other condition under control will now go untreated until Monday.   Request a contact to call if more urgent behavioral or physical effects to medication occur; this can help you avoid a trip to the emergency room. 

Be aware that if you relocate to another VA that the medications may change, which means you'll be keeping track of changed meds, dosages, or differences in the drug formulary (if there are any). 

Keep a copy of the medication list in a set place in case something happens to you and someone else must step in to assist.  Over time, using a watch, alarm clock, or a smartphone, it may be possible to create more independence with your family member as they schedule and remind themselves of medications and timing. With planning, communication, and observation, managing medications and noting their effects will help convey important messages to the care team.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

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