The Medication List: a (not too) Bitter Pill

I have a question for those of you in the sandwich generation–that demographic of adults who are trying to strike some measure of balance between your life as a mother, wife, sister, husband, career-person, etc., and as a caretaker of your aging parent(s).

Do you have an updated medication list for your parents? Do your parents even have one? If you answered yes and yes and figure you can stop reading now, just answer one more before you go: Do those lists match up?

If not, it’s time to take care of this—pronto. Not only is an accurate list of medications and dosages important to your mom or dad’s safety, both for current and new prescribers who need to check for possible drug interactions, but also in the event that one of your parents has an unexpected hospital or urgent care visit.

While this may sound daunting or time-consuming, just a few minutes out of your day can help keep your parents safe from potentially dangerous drug interactions. Additionally, coming prepared to medical appointments can lead to more productive time spent with their physicians, whose time is so limited in today’s healthcare system. And yes, there’s a little something in it for you, the adult child. From here on out, all that paperwork that needs filling out at each and every doctor appointment will be a breeze! This endeavor will not only help keep your parents safe but will add accruable minutes back into your days. (Well, it could…)

Here’s how to get the prescription list completed with as little stress as possible—for everyone. This activity may either be done in person or by phone.

  • Tell your folks that you think it would be in their best interest to keep an updateable record of their medications. (If you are still blessed with both of your parents, their lists should be separate—one for each.) Remind them that doctors today have less time to spend with their patients, and bringing a printed list to appointments will help maximize those minutes.
  • Ask Mom or Dad to gather ALL medication bottles—including over-the-counter supplements, vitamins and pain relievers. Arrange the bottles neatly (or have you parent do so), to ensure all get recorded, one by one.
  • This list should include the exact names of all medications and over-the-counter items, who prescribed each medication, the dosage taken (as written on the label), as well as how many times per day or week the medication is taken. Have Mom or Dad read each label to you for better accuracy; verify spelling. Type up the list and have it proofread by one or both of your parents. If lists and spreadsheets are not your thing, use this form from AARP.
  • Once your list or form has been satisfactorily completed, send a final copy to your parents via email. Tell them to print out and carry the completed form(s) on their person at all times—“just in case.” Additionally, assuming mom and dad are computer savvy, tell them to save a copy on their computer for future updating.
  • Equally important, keep this list yourself, someplace where it is easily accessible no matter where you may be. Whatever cloud backup you normally use will be perfect. This way, no matter where you are, if one of your folks has a medical crisis you will be able to send this all-important medication list to anyone who needs it.

We all hate to think about the possibility of losing a parent. In fact, many of us simply don’t think about it at all; it’s just too painful. In a medical emergency, however, seconds count. Being prepared at a moment’s notice may be that very thing that helps your mom or dad have a fighting chance.

As always, I welcome any opportunity to help you and your family via peaceful communication.

All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


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