In this section:
> Stress management
> Technology and stress relief
> Less Salt
> Lower cholesterol
> Coping with guilt
> Be more assertive
> Boost your immune system
> Tempt your elderly or frail relatives outdoors
> Avoiding back pain
> Getting the most from your GP
> Advice on prescribed drugs
> Difficult conversations
> Moving the person you care for
> Relaxation tips
> Laughter therapy
A spoonful of sugar…
As a carer, you have an important role in helping your relative take their medicines as directed. Steve Cook, Bupa Home Healthcare’s Director of Pharmacy, gives you his golden rules.
‘With more and more over 60s being prescribed a range of preventive drugs to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions, people today have more pills to take than ever,’ says Steve Cook.
‘Carers play a crucial role in helping some older people remember not only to take their drugs, but to take the correct amount at the right time and help explain the long-term benefits.’
Know your drugs
By swotting up on what drugs your relative is taking and why, you can help them understand why they’re important and the most effective ways to take them.
Be there for their GP consultation:‘If you can be there when the drugs are prescribed, the GP can explain the risks and benefits, and mention any common side effects, plus give information on when the drug has to be taken,’ says Steve.
‘If you can’t be there, you can ring the GP afterwards to discuss the prescription if your relative gives his/her written consent for their GP to discuss their condition with you.’
Ask your pharmacist:‘Pharmacists are a highly accessible source of information about drugs, so if you do have questions about how pills should be taken or side effects, you can ask at the counter. Most will have private consulting areas where you can speak to a pharmacist,’ explains Steve.
Request a monitored dosage system:‘Taking multiple types of medication can be confusing at the best of times but more so if you are elderly or have dementia.’ says Steve.
‘Ask your pharmacist for a monitored dosage system. This is where all your relative’s medication will be labelled in easy-to-follow blister packs with days of the week, etc. There may be a small charge for this but you can also ask for it to be prescribed free.’
Read the patient information leaflet:‘These days they are more patient-friendly and classify side effects according to whether they are common or rare. The leaflets also have information about interactions with other drugs, foods and herbal medicines, plus details of how to take it to minimise side effects and maximise effective absorption,’ says Steve.
Basic pill etiquette
Make sure your relative can open their pill bottle:‘Child-proof locks can sometimes be difficult for the elderly or people with arthritis to undo, and something as simple as that could be stopping them taking their medication.’
Find a way of incorporating their medication into their daily routine:‘Make it as easy as possible so that they can remember – before, at or after mealtimes is a good structure. Always check if medication should be taken before, with or after food as this will affect how it is absorbed into the bloodstream.’
Check if it’s safe to crush their pills if they can’t swallow them:‘It’s tempting to crush pills and put them in food, but with some medication this isn’t a good idea as it can result in medication being absorbed too quickly,’ explains Steve.
‘For instance, with slow-release morphine, if the drug is crushed, it’s absorbed too quickly and then the effects wear off quicker and the patient is left without pain relief. Your pharmacist will have a list of drugs that are safe to crush.’
Always mention any prescription drugs your relative is taking if buying medicines from a pharmacy:‘For example, some indigestion remedies don’t mix with drugs that have enteric coating (a coating that is designed to hold the tablet together when in the stomach to either protect the stomach from the drug, the drug from the stomach or release the drug further down the digestive tract).’
Don’t let side-effects drag on Go back to their GP if they are having side effects:‘They may be able to prescribe another drug that might be better tolerated,’ explains Steve.
Ask your pharmacist for a prescription review:‘Every so often it’s good practice to review all the drugs your relative is on and see whether they are still needed and whether alternatives may be needed; they should be happy to book you in for this. Your relative will need to see their GP if their prescription changes.’
Going into hospital Make sure your relative takes their medication to hospital:‘If they are admitted as an emergency, there can be delay in receiving their medical notes and details of their prescriptions, so try and take them in with you. Most hospitals now run a green bag system where a patient’s drugs are decanted into a named bag, ensuring drug continuity.’
Check your GP knows about all drugs prescribed by secondary care: ‘It’s important to let your relative’s GP know if they have been prescribed any additional medicine or switched onto different drugs by a doctor in a secondary care hospital setting as sometimes there can be a delay in communicating this information.’