This section was adapted from the “United Way Metro Vancouver Family & Friends Caregivers Information and Resource Handbook 2016/17” with permission from the author Katherine Willett.
Regardless of the health issues of the family member or friend you care for, medication management is important. As we age the number of medical conditions we deal with rises, and that tends to increase the number of medications we take. Seniors make up 14% of the Canadian population but take over 30% of prescription drugs. Older bodies do not handle meds as easily as younger ones because of reduced liver and kidney function, and polypharmacy (the use of many, i.e. four or more medications) puts older people even more at risk. ‘High pill burden’ can decrease the probability that medications are taken correctly, increase the possibility of adverse side effects as every medication has possible negative side effects, and raise the possibility of negative drug interactions. This can result in delirium – a medical emergency – other illnesses, and increase the risk of hospitalization. Over 20% of all elderly patient admissions to hospital are related to adverse drug reactions or incorrect drug use.
BC Medication Review Services Program Pharmacists can perform free medication reviews every six months; not many people know about this beneficial service, designed to increase communication between patient and pharmacist to promote safe medication use and improve health.
The review is carried-out during an in-person appointment with a pharmacist. Eligible patients are BC residents with a Personal Health Number (PHN) who require at least one medication that is entered in PharmaNet, and who give informed consent to receive the service. In a standard review the pharmacist meets with the patient to go over their medications and prepare a Best Possible Medication History (a list of current medications). The purpose is to improve the patient’s understanding of their medications, including what medications they are taking, why they are being taken, how best to take them, and more. Speak to your pharmacist to learn more.
Medications List Having an up-to-date list of medications taken (over-the-counter, prescription, herbal, tonics, immunizations, etc) can be useful for visits to doctors and extremely useful in the event of emergencies where medical personnel might ask: “What medications are being taken?” A helpful list of medications will include: name, dosage and reason for taking; when and how it is taken; date it was started (and if use stopped, note end date); notes on any side effects; who it was prescribed by and the pharmacy name.
Medication Reminders If your care recipient finds it challenging to manage medications, pharmacists have different ways to package med (e.g. blister packs) that increase the probability of compliance with doctor instructions.
Medication Shopping The BC Cancer Agency encourages people to purchase their medication from places that do not sell tobacco products.