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Hospital Advocacy: Managing Medications

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When a loved one is in the hospital, it can be challenging to handle many tasks, especially managing medications effectively. However, with the proper preparation and questions, you can ensure your loved one receives the best care possible. 

Here are 8 constructive tips to help you manage medications during and after your loved one’s hospital stay:

  1. Introduce yourself as the caregiver: Let the healthcare teams (from doctors to nurses to aides) know that you will be helping your loved one, mainly to understand their medications. You can provide valuable insights and observations that may help to identify any issues with their medication.
  2. Stay informed about medication changes: Ask how you can receive updates about any changes to your loved one’s medications. Understanding all the drugs and their purposes can help you monitor their effectiveness and manage any side effects.
  3. Confirm medical records: to ensure continuity of care and avoid any confusion or mistakes, double-check with the staff the list of all the medications, vitamins, and herbs your loved one was taking at home. Ensure your loved one’s allergy information, including any drug or food allergies, is noted in their records. 

Tip: Ask for an allergy alert wristband for added safety.

  1. Address pain and depression management: Discuss how your loved one’s depression or pain management is in the hospital. Request what hospital’s protocol will help to stabilize their condition and improve the management of other conditions.
  2. Discuss personal habits: If your loved one consumes alcohol or smokes regularly, it’s essential to discuss how it may affect their medication regimen at home, particularly post-surgery or pain management.
  3. Monitor side effects: Understand the common side effects of each medication and know when to alert healthcare providers. Side effects can include falls, confusion, and constipation, which might require immediate adjustments.
  4. Confirm medication consistency after transfers: Every time your loved one is transferred within the hospital, check if their medication regimen remains the same. Ask about any changes and ensure that everyone agrees on the treatment plan.
  1. Prepare for home medication needs: If your loved one is prescribed a new drug at home, ask about its purpose. Inquire about pain management and strategies to taper off opioids. You can also inquire about more cost-effective options—record medication instructions, doses, schedules, and whom to contact with questions.

Tip: Try to obtain the prescription and arrange medical supplies or devices the day before discharge.

Throughout this experience, detailed notes on your loved one’s medication schedule, doses, side effects, and any changes or instructions their healthcare team provides can be incredibly helpful. This record-keeping can help you manage their transition home and make subsequent doctor visits more productive.

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