Guest Author - Jeanetta Polenske
Managing your own medications means more than just knowing what to take and when to take it. It also means becoming your own advocate about what you are taking and why.
Self-advocacy involves educating yourself about your medical needs and making decisions about your health care, including the right to challenge professional opinions about that care. That certainly includes the medications that you are prescribed.
Find out about the medication, why it is being prescribed, any side effects, potential drug interactions and what needs to be reported to the physician about that drug. Your need to be fully aware about dosages, how to reorder, when your medications need to be reevaluated and how to store them. It is also crucial to know which medications require monitoring of vital signs like blood pressure and pulse.
There is ample information available on the Internet about health issues and medications. You should probably have a reference book on the shelf. More importantly, establish a good relationship with your pharmacist. The pharmacist can be invaluable when it comes to answering your questions.
The pharmacy can help you individualize your medication needs. They can provide large print on the bottles, make the containers easier to open and help find liquid or dissolvable forms of pills if swallowing is an issue. They can be consulted about over-the-counter and herbal medicines and the safety of using them with your current prescriptions.
Medications are to be taken seriously. Keep them locked up, take your pills on a regular schedule and do not share them with anyone else. It is a great idea to keep a medication administration record so that you know when your medications are taken, not only for your own safety, but for the use of anyone who may need to help out during periods that you are unable to take your own medication. This record is also invaluable to emergency personnel and physicians.
Many people take a number of medications. There is always the potential for error including taking the wrong medication at the wrong time or forgetting to take your drugs. Medication administration aids can help reduce errors and make distribution less of a task.
Pill timers can be audible reminders for those with cognitive disabilities or visual impairment. For the hearing impaired, a vibrating timer prompts the user that itís time for pills. A medication dispenser is designed to be preloaded with medication in cups and is programmed to automatically disperse the appropriate pills at the correct time. Pill organizers are great if loaded regularly and correctly.
There is software available to imprint Braille labels on bottles. Medication droppers and spoons are calibrated to measure liquid medications. Pill splitters, pill crushers, a pendants attached to a keychain for nitroglycerin, and innovative insulin injecting devices are just a few of the many pieces of equipment that are designed for making medication administration less stressful.
The major lesson is to know yourself, advocate for your own health and understand your medications. Then find and use whatever reminders, records and storage containers work for your circumstances. Learn to recognize if a medication is working for you or if another needs to be considered. Educate yourself and trust your instincts when it comes to your prescriptions.