Basics of Medication Management

UNDERSTAND YOUR MEDICATIONS

  • Read all of the labels and inserts that come with your medications. Review the information on this form often.

  • Know what potential side effects to look for (for each medication).

  • Know what each of your medications look like (by color, shape, size, stamp). If you are getting confused and having a hard time telling them apart, talk with your caregiver or pharmacist. They may be able to change the medication or help you to identify them more easily.

  • Check with your pharmacist if you notice a difference in the size or color of your medication.

  • Get all of your medications at one pharmacy. The pharmacist will have all of your information and understand possible drug interactions.

  • Ask your caregiver questions about your prescriptions and any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbal or dietary supplements that you take.

TAKE YOUR MEDICATION SAFELY

  • Take medications only as prescribed.

  • Talk with your caregiver or pharmacist if some of your pills look the same and it is difficult to tell them apart. They can help you to recognize different medications.

  • Never double up on your medication.

  • Never take anyone else's medication or share your medications.

  • Do not stop taking your medication(s) unless you have discussed it with your caregiver.

  • Do not split, mash, or chew medications unless your caregiver tells you to do so. Tell your caregiver if you have trouble swallowing your medication(s).

  • For liquid medications, make sure you use the dosing container provided to you.

  • You may need to avoid alcohol or certain foods or liquids with one or more of your medications. Make sure you remember how to take each medication with some of the tools below.

ORGANIZE YOUR MEDICATIONS

  • Use a tool, such as a weekly pill box (available at your local pharmacy), written chart from your caregiver, notebook, binder, or your own calendar to organize your daily medications. Please note: if you are having trouble telling your different medications apart, keep them in the original bottles.

  • Set cues or reminders for taking your medications. Use watch alarms, mobile device/phone calendar alarms, or sticky notes.

  • More advanced medication management systems are also available. These offer weekly or monthly options complete with storage, alarms, and visual and audio prompts.

  • Your system should help you to keep track of the:

  • Name of medication and dose.

  • Day.

  • Time.

  • Pill to take (by color, shape, size, or name/imprint).

  • How to take it (with or without certain foods, on an empty stomach, with fluids etc.).

  • Review your medication schedule with a family member or friend to help you. Other household members should understand your medications.

  • If you are taking medications on an "as needed" basis such as those for nausea or pain, write down the name, dose, and time you took the medication so that you remember what you have taken.

PLAN AHEAD FOR REFILLS AND TRAVEL

  • Take your pill box, medications, and calendar system with you when you travel.

  • Plan ahead for refills as to not run out of your medication(s).

  • Always carry an updated list of your medications with you. If there is an emergency, a respondent can quickly see what medications you are taking.

STORE AND DISCARD YOUR MEDICATIONS SAFELY

  • Store medications in a cool, dry area away from light. (The bathroom is not a good place for storage because of heat and humidity.)

  • Store your medications away from chemicals, pet medications, or other family member's medications.

  • Keep medications out of children's reach, away from counters and bedside tables. Store them up high in cabinets or shelves.

  • Check expiration dates regularly.

  • Learn about the best way to dispose of each medication you take. Find out if your local government recycling program has a Medicine Take Back program for safe disposal. If not, some medications may be mixed with inedible substances and thrown away in the trash. Certain medications are to be flushed down the toilet.

REMEMBER:

  • Tell your caregiver if you experience side effects, new symptoms, or have other concerns. There may be dosing changes or alternative medications that would be better for you.

  • Review your medications regularly with your caregiver. Check to see if you need to continue to take each medication, and discuss how well they are working. Medicines, diet, medical conditions, weight changes, and other habits can all affect how medicines work.

PEDIATRIC CONSIDERATIONS

If you are taking care of an infant or child who needs multiple medications, follow the tips above to organize a medication schedule and safely give and store medications.   

  • Use positive reinforcement (singing, cuddling, reward) for your child to help him or her take necessary medications.

  • Use only syringes, droppers, dosing spoons, or dosing cups provided by your caregiver or pharmacist.

  • Always wash your hands before giving medications.

  • Get to know your child's school medication policies. Meet with the school nurse to review the medication schedule in detail. Never send the medication to school with your child.

  • Check with your child's caregiver if he or she has trouble taking medication, forgets a dose, or spits it up.

  • Make sure your child knows how to use an inhaler properly if needed.

  • Do not give your child over-the-counter cough and cold medicines if they are under 2 years of age.

  • Avoid giving your child or teenager Aspirin or Aspirin-containing products.