An important part of managing your family
member or friend’s health care is creating a
comprehensive list of medications. This list should show what the medications are
for, and when they should be taken.
But beyond that, the list should reflect the latest
information you’ve received from your family
member or friend’s doctor and/or pharmacist. Let’s look at a sample list and the things you
ought to think about.
First there’s the medication’s brand name and
its generic – or medical – name; sometimes these are used interchangeably by
For example, you can see that Tylenol is the
brand name and acetaminophen is the generic,
or clinical, name. Next is a description of the medication – what it
actually looks like – say a little red pill or green
liquid. The “dosage” column shows what a single dose
of the med is; the actual number of pills,
capsules, or amount of liquid. Follow this with the strength, or amount of
medicine, in each dose that your family
member or friend is taking and then the frequency, the time of day and
days in the week the dosage is given; for
instance “twice daily with meals.” If your family member or friend is having trouble
swallowing pills or refuses to take a medication, the “how to take” column will show the best or
easiest way, as recommended by a health
professional. He or she might recommend a med in liquid
form rather than a pill that’s hard to swallow and the doctor should keep a record of these
Side-effects and interactions with other
medications are always something to be aware
of, and the “don’t take with” column reflects that.
Make sure to check online, or with your
pharmacist, for a medication’s effect on your family member
or friend’s diet or medical condition. A pharmacist can point out a medication’s
restrictions such as taking it a certain time, before or after meals or, as in the case of
statins, not to take it with grapefruit or grapefruit
juice. The next column simply indicates the condition
for which the medication is being taken; like an overactive thyroid, high cholesterol or
high blood pressure.
The “Prescribed by” column should contain the
prescribing doctor’s name. If a particular medication is over-the-counter
and not prescribed, you can enter “OTC.”
Your doctor should be aware of any over-the-
counter vitamins, herbal remedies, aspirin,
antihistamines, antacids, and such because they too could have side-effects or
interactions with prescribed medications.
So, OTC meds should contain all the
information on the list as other prescription
medications. Toward the far end of the list is the fill date
column. The fill date is when the pharmacy issued your
And next to that is the refill date; which, if you
calculate the number of pills and the dosage, shows when the medication will run out so you
can reorder ahead of time.
And then the expiration date, which tells you
when the medication is not effective any more.
It’s wise to dispose of out-of-date meds, even
over-the-counter meds, simply because they may have lost or changed
their potency or, if unused for a long time, they
can be lost or later misused. The best way to remove expired, or no longer
taken, medications is through drug disposal
programs generally available in locations near you and
Or, if these are not available, put the uncrushed
meds in a sealable plastic bag mixed with unpalateable substances like kitty
litter, sand, or old coffee grounds, and put them
in the trash. Be sure to scratch out all identifying
Finally, at the far end of the list, is the
discontinue column, which indicates when you can – or should – stop
taking the medication.
By keeping all this medication information in a
clearly arranged list, and by taking it to the doctor each time you visit
for changes and updates, you can better manage your family member or
friend’s health and arrange for other caregivers
to do the same. You’ll feel more confident… and your family
member or friend will truly benefit from it.