Transitions: Review your medications

Transitions: Review your medications

Posted by AskNurseLinda on Oct 22, 2018 11:47 am

4d70525a685382daedf370d01401d2b9-huge-isKeeping track of your medications is an important aspect of maintaining your health. Some people are fortunate not to require any medications. If no medications are needed, great. However, if medications would benefit your health, you should plan to take them.

Remember the risk vs. benefit theory of healthcare. You want to receive any benefit you can from healthcare which might include treatments, equipment and medication. Always ask your health professional about the benefits are of taking a medication as well as what are the risks. Risks are typically represented as side effects. Your healthcare providers including pharmacists will be able to educate you about side effects of medications.

In addition, risks of medications can also include what dietary restrictions might be needed to keep medication working effectively, other medications or over the counter products that could interfere with your medication and long-term effects of medications. Some medications must be kept refrigerated, others in sealed containers or out of direct light or heat. Many times, foods or over the counter products will interact with prescribed medications. For example, some heart medications cannot be taken with grapefruit. Some blood thinners cannot be mixed with green leafy vegetables because the nutrients in the green leaf affect blood clotting.

Over the counter medications or dietary supplements should always be reported and added to you list of prescribed medications. Even if you do not take any prescribed medications, let all your healthcare professionals know if you take vitamins, dietary supplements, herbal remedies, or other items. This list should also include anything smoked, ingested, or inhaled. That includes ‘street drugs’, cigarettes, marijuana, cigars, pipe smoking, vaping, e-cigs, etc.

There are many over the counter or otherwise obtained medications that affect the internal function of your body. This list of over the counter supplements that affect blood function is extensive. Inhaling anything will affect your respiratory system as well as to rob your body of needed oxygen as inhaled substances circulate through your bloodstream grabbing on to your cells instead of the oxygen needed to keep them healthy. 

Some people will use alternative entry points other than swallowing or inhaling which can include injections, rectal insertion, vaginal insertion, even absorbing products through the skin. There are varieties of ways people use alternative drugs that it is impossible to list. It does not have to be for recreational drug use but just not really thinking about what you are doing to your body when one becomes fixated on a particular product.

Always check with your healthcare professional before starting any new product to make sure there is a benefit to your health. That sounds simple enough but in real life it can be a challenge especially when you hear about the benefits of a product through extreme advertising. Many marketers are appealing directly to the public telling you what you need without knowing anything about your health situation.

When you are discharged from the rehabilitation setting or acute care hospital, you will be provided with a list of medications that you should take at home. Prescriptions are given to you at discharge. On your way home, you will need to stop by the pharmacy and pick up your medications or have someone do this for you. Pharmacies that dispense medications have a different license than the pharmacy in the healthcare facility. That is why you have to get your medications from a dispensing pharmacy instead of just taking home medications from the facility which would be so much easier. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you can, you might want to phone your pharmacy a few days prior to discharge to notify them of the medications you will need. Common medications will be in stock. Some medications that are common for individuals with spinal cord injury are not common for the general population. Your local pharmacy may not carry those medications. They will have to be ordered from a main supplier which might take a couple of days. You might need your medication the day you arrive home. Some advanced notice to the pharmacist will allow them time to order any medications that they do not keep in stock. Be sure you speak directly with the pharmacist, not the person answering the phone, to make these arrangements.

Your list of medications should be written out in both generic and trade names but often this does not happen. Sometimes the generic name is listed in your discharge medication but the name of the medication on the bottle might be the trade name. Review the medications you are picking up to match each medication, so you are sure you know which they are. If there is confusion, you can call your pharmacist or the registered nurse from your facility and inquire. Checking to make sure you have your medication schedule correct should be a top priority.
When picking up your medication from the pharmacy, you will receive printed information about each prescription that you will be taking. Since you have been taking this medication in the healthcare facility, you will have a basic idea how your body reacts to it. However, in the first few days at home, make a point to read about each medication.  Be sure you know what it does for and to your body. Be aware of side effects.

It is important to note that medications can be made by several different manufacturers. The content of the medication will be exactly the same from company to company, but the pill, liquid or ointment might look different. This is due to manufacturing processes. Although your prescriptions might be the same as what you took in the facility, the pills you take at home might look completely different. Be sure to notice this so you know which pill you are taking. Sometimes, pharmacies will change manufacturer and the medication will look different with the next refill. The pharmacy staff should let you know that a change was made and the pill container should have a notification tag on it.

Routines can become such a habit that you might forget if you took your medicine or not, especially if you get out of routine. Some people will make a chart and tick off their medication as they take it. Other people will buy pill minders with little compartments for morning, noon, evening and bedtime medications. This can be filled by the week or month. You can look at the pill minder and see if you took your pills or not. It sounds simple to remember to take your medicine but when things get hectic or out of routine, it is easy to let something slide or to double up.

After awhile at home, your medication might change. Things can be added or discontinued. Keep a list of medications that you have tried but have been discontinued and why. If you had a reaction to a medication, you will want to report it as an allergy. Perhaps a medication did not work up to your expectations and you and your healthcare provider chose a different one. If you note when and why you stopped a medication, it will be easy to recall your effort later.

When just home but especially later, have your healthcare professional and pharmacist review your medications. Pick sometime during the year to do this annually. I use my birthday as my health is a gift to myself but you might pick another time such as a year after discharge. Polypharmacy is an epidemic in our country where people tend to collect medications, prescribed and over the counter. This is a product of our healthcare system. You might start an over the counter medication or a healthcare provider may order a medication that you are taking in a different form. This can happen especially if you see a variety of healthcare providers which is typical after SCI. Normally, prescription medication is checked electronically with all your other medication. Unfortunately, all the precautions for contraindications are not fool proof. Have your healthcare professionals review your medications to ensure everything is working as it should and to be sure you still need the medication you are taking.

It is easy overlook the importance of your medication. Remember these are chemicals you are putting into your body for the betterment of your health. You want to make sure you are receiving the benefit of these drugs and that they are working for the best result.

Nurse LindaI'm online in this community every Wednesday from 8-9 PM ET to answer your SCI and paralysis related questions.

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