The single most important way you can help to prevent errors is to get your loved one involved in his or her own care. That means he or she should take part in every decision about his or her health care, provided they have the cognitive ability to do so.
Research shows that patients who are more involved with their care tend to get better results. Some specific tips, on helping to manage your loved ones medications, and what has been shown to work best include:
- Make sure that all of your loved one’s doctors know about all of the medication they are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbs.
- At least once a year, bring all of the patient’s medicines and supplements with you to his or her doctor. “Brown bagging” one’s medications can help foster discussion about them and find out if there are any problems. It can also help the doctor keep your loved one’s records up to date, which can help you get better quality care.
- Make sure that the doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions your loved one has had to medications. This can help him or her avoid getting a medicine that could be harmful,
- When the doctor writes a prescription, make sure you and the patient can read it. If you can’t read the doctor’s handwriting, the pharmacist might not be able to either.
- Ask for information about medicines in terms you can understand – both when medicines are prescribed and when the patient receives them:
- What is the medicine for?
- How is he or she supposed to take it, and for how long?
- What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?
- Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements that I am taking?
- What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
- When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask, “Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?
- If you have any questions about the directions on your medication labels, ask. Medicine labels can be hard to understand. For example, ask if “four doses daily” means taking a dose every six hours around the clock or just during regular waking hours?
- Ask your pharmacist for the best devise to measure your liquid medicine. Ask questions if you are not sure how to use it.
- Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause.
Hospital stays also require you to take an active role in assuring you or your loved one gets good care:
- If you have a choice, choose a hospital where many patients have the same procedure or surgery that you will.
- If you are in the hospital, consider asking all health care workers who have direct contact with you whether they have washed their hands
- When you are being discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor to explain the treatment plan you will use at home. This includes learning about your medicines and finding out when you can get back to your regular activities.
- If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done.
- Speak up if you have questions or concerns
- Make sure that someone, such as your personal doctor, is in charge of your care. This is especially important if you have many health problems.
- Make sure that all health professional involved in your care have important health information about you. Do not assume that everyone knows everything they need to .
- Ask a family member or friends to be there with you and to serve as your advocate. Even if you don’t think you need help now, you might need it later.
- Know that “more” is not always better. It’s a good idea to find out why a test or treatment is needed and how it can help you.
- If you have a test, don’t assume that no news is good news. Always ask for the results.
- Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse and by using other reliable sources.