6 ways a pharmacist can help caregivers
Effective interaction with your older adult loved one’s pharmacist can improve health in a number of ways by:
- Preventing life-threatening drug interactions
- Selecting over-the-counter products
- Saving time
- Finding less expensive medications and saving money
- Preventing human errors
- Simplifying medication management
You’ve heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what if a small change could lead to better health? As a caregiver, you’re likely too busy to worry about something as mundane as the pharmacy you use, but thoughtful prescription medication management can give you benefits you might not have considered before.
Interacting with your pharmacist in the most effective ways can actually improve health in a number of ways.
Preventing life-threatening drug interactions
One-third of adults in their 60s and 70s take more than five medications and have a 50% chance of experiencing an adverse drug reaction. And because so many patients see multiple doctors and don’t communicate all their medications, a pharmacist is critical in managing potentially fatal interactions. Make sure your pharmacist knows about all the medicines your loved one is taking (including vitamins and supplements).
Selecting over-the-counter products
In recent years, several drugs (including those for allergies, bladder control and acid reduction) have been changed from prescription to over-the-counter. If your loved one isn’t feeling well, it might be possible to treat them with these OTC products. Describe the symptoms to the pharmacist. If there’s nothing that can help, they will refer you back to your doctor—but it’s still worth talking to them.
Because pharmacies have longer operating hours and no appointment needed, they’re easier to access than doctors for questions. If you have questions about how to take prescribed medications or notice new side effects, you can ask the pharmacist. You can also find out what to do if a dose is missed or if too much is accidentally taken.
Finding less expensive medications and saving money
If your medication is too expensive, talk to the pharmacist: There’s almost always a more cost-conscious alternative. Your pharmacist can work behind the scenes to call doctors and discuss more affordable prescription options.
Out-of-pocket payments when using Medicare or other third-party insurance may also vary depending on the prescription and your chosen pharmacy. If it’s too expensive, discuss options with the pharmacist; sometimes the cash price may be cheaper. Or, he or she might recommend a preferred pharmacy or advise you on a generic or biosimilar drug. Likewise, for many branded-only products, the pharmacist might be able to recommend cost-saving programs from the manufacturer.
Preventing human errors
Even in a digital era, pharmacists must personally check the prescription when the order comes in. It’s not at all uncommon to spot mistakes in strength or dosage. A significant part of the pharmacist’s day is spent speaking with physicians to improve patient care and correct mistakes.
Simplifying medication management
If your loved one takes many pills at various times throughout the day, you know how hard it can be to manage their pill-taking schedule. Your pharmacist may be able to simplify the regimen. Once-daily dosing can result in as much as twice as many adherent days versus more complex pill schedules.
4 tips for getting the most from your pharmacy
- Get to know your pharmacist. The best way to ensure pharmaceutical care is to build a relationship with the pharmacists at your preferred location. Until you have medical power of attorney for the older adult you’re caring for, you’ll need to bring your loved one along to make sure there are no privacy violations. Think of the pharmacist like you would a doctor—a trusted member of the health care team.
- If possible, use only one pharmacy. To make sure you’re alerted to dangerous drug interactions, it’s ideal to use only one pharmacy or pharmacy chain. It’s not possible to get this alert when, for example, you use one company’s mail order system for a particular medication, a local pharmacy for another and a nationwide chain for something else. When you use only one pharmacy, you’re guaranteed their computers will always be able to spot dangerous drug interactions.
- Always keep an updated list of medications. Organize a list of all the drugs being taken, including OTC, supplements and vitamins. Be sure to note the dates and dosage. You can hand them a printed copy or show them your phone. This list is the only way for your pharmacist to do a medication review and prevent interactions if you use multiple providers. It’s also a great tool to take along to doctor’s appointments.
- Be honest. Pharmacists can handle the truth. Discuss all symptoms or side effects. Is the medication being taken regularly or are there lots of missed doses? Has the medication become unaffordable? Ask questions, even if they might seem embarrassing.
Transferring prescriptions to another pharmacy
If you’re ready to reap the benefits of a single pharmacy, transferring prescriptions is a fast and easy process. Just contact the new pharmacy with the prescription name, dosage, prescription number and the name of the pharmacy that currently fills the prescription. They’ll handle the rest, usually within one business day.
Pharmacies also administer vaccines for COVID-19, shingles, flu and more. Your pharmacist is on your side—an advocate for good health. Take advantage of their knowledge and empathy. Not only can your pharmacist improve your loved one’s health, it’s also a nice way to put a friendly face into your caregiving routine.