Medication Responsibility

Not very long ago, before wearing masks was an every day ritual, I was given the wonderful opportunity of speaking about pharmacy with a group at one of our local retirement communities.  While preparing for this opportunity, I pondered quite a few different topics, such as Medicare D drug benefits, mail-order pharmacy, different disease states or possibly even just open ended questions and answers.  Finally, I came upon a topic I like to call Medication Responsibility.

I sat and took some notes about this topic and before long I had a list of items going that was far too long for a 40 minute discussion.  After a bit of thought about my audience, I narrowed this down to five particular different areas.  I realize that the term Medication Responsibility will mean something different for different people; however, these five topics are a good fit for this particular group of individuals living at this retirement community.

Develop a working relationship with a Community Pharmacist.  I have a good story about a gentleman who endured a frustrating visit to the emergency room and another few days of extreme dizziness that may all very well have been avoided had he first called his Community Pharmacist with a question.  I realize that many people fill their prescriptions via a mail-order pharmacy.  When you have a question about your medications, are you able to phone that mail-order pharmacy and reach a pharmacist that you know and trust?  If the answer is yes, fantastic.   If the answer is no, then is the cost savings worth not having a Community Pharmacist available who knows your medication profile.

Community Pharmacy is much more than just a place to fill your prescriptions.  When a Community Pharmacy is responsible for filling your prescriptions, the Pharmacist is available to you for questions whenever they are open for business.  The Pharmacist has your medication profile in front of them and can evaluate what you are currently taking and compare that with any type of medication or disease related question you may have.  This is a great service and should always be considered as a first option if you are feeling a little out of sorts and wonder if one of your medications may be causing you to feel this way.

Medication Reconciliation.  This is a fancy phrase for having a complete list of your medications with you at all times.  Write up a list that includes all of your current prescription medications, over the counter medications, dietary supplements, and medication allergies.  Take this list with you to each visit you have with any health care provider and have them look at it.  Make certain that the list that they have matches your list.   This is a working list and will need to be updated or validated with each visit to your Doctor or Pharmacy. 

This Medication Reconciliation process is especially important if you have had a recent visit to the hospital.  Quite often medications change when you have a short visit to the hospital and you need to be sure your list is complete and approved before heading home from your visit.

Take Charge.  This is important and sometimes difficult to address.  Everyone needs to do this; however, in my experience it is quite often overlooked.  Pick someone, either a family member or a caregiver, and have a conversation with them about your medications.  You are picking someone who will agree to handle your medication for you when you are no longer able to handle them yourself.  This is a push to have you be an active participant in creating your plan, so that a plan is not created for you. 

Medication Storage.  I encourage everyone to keep their medications in a safe, dry location such as your bedroom.  It is important to not keep your medications in the bathroom because the moisture may begin to deteriorate the integrity of the tablet or capsule.  More importantly, store your pain medications in a location that is not visible to visitors.  As incredulous as this may sound, it is not uncommon for a visitor to come into someone’s home and take a few pain medication tablets out of their prescription bottle when the owner is not looking.  Store your pain medications in your bedroom, out of visual sight from anyone who may be entering your room.  Storage in a dresser drawer or your closet works well.

Medication Disposal.  How do I get rid of my medications when I don’t need them anymore?  Please, it is a good idea to get rid of any old medications.  Prescriptions that have been changed or eliminated do not need to be kept around the house just in case you might need them at a later date.  It is more likely that there may be a medication mis-adventure if these are kept in the house. 
Please, do not give your expired medications to anyone else to take, especially if it is a prescription medication.   It is against federal law to share prescription medication.  An individual needs to be evaluated by a healthcare practitioner and prescribed a medication before they may legally take a prescription medication. 

Do not flush your medications down the toilet.   Check with your local pharmacy or your waste management program to see if there is a medication take-back program available.

If there is no medication take-back program available, then you may take the medications and put them in a container such as a zip lock bag. Mix in something unpalatable such as kitty litter or coffee grounds then add a little water to the mixture. Now, take the container and put it in a brown paper bag and put it in the garbage.

I realize that many people may have many more ideas of what Medication Responsibility means to them; however, if you are able to master these five topics, you are well on your way.