If you are an adult caregiver for your aging parent(s) and you have your own family, job and chores that you need to work around, then you are well aware of the stresses of being a member of today’s sandwich generation. One of the first hurdles you will face is worrying about Mom and Dad’s medications. Are they being refilled and picked up on time? Is Dad taking his high blood pressure medication? Does Mom remember to take her thyroid pill one hour prior to breakfast? You likely find yourself worrying about this very thing during meetings at work or while tending to your children’s care. Getting your parents’ medications properly organized can help alleviate a great deal of this stress. Below, are some ideas:
- Put together a list of each parent’s current medications, including the name, whether it’s generic or brand, dose, time(s) of day it’s taken, and any special instructions. Type each list up using an easily-accessible document editor such as Word or Excel, and then store them in more than one cloud space. That way, you cannot only access the lists at a moment’s notice, but you can share them with any health professional who may need it. If one doesn’t have a Dropbox account, perhaps he or she uses OneNote or Box? Additionally, favorite these lists under your own main cloud source, allowing them to be viewable without an Internet connection. You never know …
- Print the list and tape to the front of a kitchen cabinet at your parents’ home (or have someone who lives close by to them do so for you). Keep a copy of both lists in your vehicle and your folks’ vehicles as well (if they are still driving).
- Talk to someone at the pharmacy where your parents fill their medications and arrange to have all of Mom and Dad’s prescriptions put on automatic refill. Additionally, ask to have your phone number, along with your parents’ number(s), added to the pharmacy’s notification service. You will be notified not only whenever a prescription is ready for pickup, but also when there is an issue with a refill, such as a denial from the insurance provide, or the need to phone a doctor to authorize a new refill. (Note: This is a good time to transfer all prescriptions to the same pharmacy so that the pharmacist can be on the lookout for any previously overlooked dangerous drug interactions.)
- If you’re going to help oversee Mom and Dad’s safety by putting together their weekly meds, you may as well put together a month’s worth of daily pill bundles for each parent. Buy a distinctively-colored specialty pill box for each parent (easily found online through a key word search or at a local apothecary, near your town’s hospitals), then label “Mom” and “Dad” on the respective receptacles. Fill accordingly.
- If your parent or parents do not have 24-hour caretakers, how can you be certain that Mom and Dad are taking their medications? First off, you are all now set up for a greater likelihood of success. You know that the medications are being refilled, have been collected, and you know that these prescriptions have been carefully doled out as per their written instructions. During the first weeks of your new system, come check on the pill packs yourself (if that is possible), or have a trusted neighbor or friend of your folks come do it for you and report back. You can also help Mom and Dad set up recurring timers on their Smartphones or tablets, or you could purchase specialty timers, even vibrating alert watches, developed for just this use.
Still, there is absolutely nothing to replace watchfulness on a caretaker’s part, as medication hoarding and stashing—either to take all at once later or to throw away without taking at all—is an all-too-real problem for many families of the elderly.
I hope that this list provides you with a little bit of guidance and comfort moving forward in caring for your own aging parents. I’d love to hear if you put any of these ideas into action in your own family, or whether you have other helpful suggestions.
If I may be of assistance to you, please reach out to me here on my “contact me” page at any time.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.