The Next Important Question? Your Prescriptions

by Lynn Harrelson, R. Ph. Senior Care Pharmacist, Senior Pharmacy Solutions  After most hospital stays, patients and caregivers can be overwhelmed as they approach the discharge process. They are probably asking themselves “What am I going to do???” and “How am I going to get it done???” The discharge process like other transitional events can be a complicated necessity to support future well being. Patients and caregivers should be asking themselves one more important question, "Could the changes in my loved one be the result of their medications or how they are using them??”   Medication related problems are one of the biggest reasons for hospital visits and their costs. These hospital costs do not include costs to patients, loved ones and other caregivers in addressing problems that continue after the hospital stay. Additionally, in today’s healthcare system, patients, their loved ones or caregivers often fail to understand the impact that medications may have on a loved one’s health and continued well being. This is especially true for patients over 65. Patients who are older usually have more medical conditions that result in greater medication use, more interactions, and more side effects. The more medication taken, the greater potential for medication related problems.   Medication related problems can be arranged into various groups: doses that may be too high or those that don’t reach an effective blood level: or medications used improperly, inconsistently, or used longer than needed. When medications that don’t produce the benefits for which they are prescribed or when a medication treatment is overlooked, unreported, or untreated, it is considered a medication related problem. Also included are drug interactions, adverse reactions or cumulative side effects that may result from a particular mix of medications. You are encouraged to give careful consideration again to that important question, “Could the changes in my loved one be the result of their medications or how they are using them”? Acting on that one question will make your other decisions and actions at the time of discharge, more productive and more beneficial. If the medication related problems and their causes continue to be unaddressed, other decisions are compromised.   When you discuss the need to make the home safer, please realize if medications continue to cause dizziness and falls, the home remains unsafe. When decisions are made to change diets or arrange meal delivery, please realize that weight, strength and appetite may not improve if medications continue to contribute to changes in appetite or adsorption of the nutrients. As you start to develop plans to keep a senior more mentally active, please realize that it may not be accomplished if the cumulative side effects of multiple medications remain unaddressed. All patients and caregivers are encouraged to understand that medications are an extremely important part of their health care plan. Many times medications cannot cure health problems but treat conditions and slow the decline in health.   Medications may be used differently to get better results and fewer side effects. The proper use of all medications at an optimal dose is essential to achieve the desired results and further slow the decline in health. It is absolutely necessary that patients, family or caregivers learn about the unique group of medications that are being used and how to achieve maximum benefit from their use. Like many of the questions and needs that arise during the discharge process, there is a service to address medication related problems. You are encouraged to seek the support and direction of a health care professional specially trained to address the results and side effects of unique combination of medications and how specific patients respond to them.   We can provide help, support and direction in regards to medication use. We can develop a comprehensive plan for all medications in use. The Senior Care Pharmacist at Senior Pharmacy Solutions is specially trained to address the medication related problems mentioned above, to support patients in getting the biggest benefit from the medications they use and to promote their continued well being and independent living. Lynn Harrelson, R. Ph. Senior Care Pharmacist Senior Pharmacy Solutions 502-425-8642