5 Tips You Need to Best Manage Your Parent’s Medication

Author: Maine Veterans' Homes
Posted: April 06, 2017
Category: Short Term Skilled Nursing Care

It can be stressful, overwhelming and time-consuming to manage medication for your parent, especially if he or she is also recovering from an illness or medical procedure. While you sort and track pills and prescriptions, you also worry about drug side effects and interactions.

Neil Thurlow, Pharm.D, MBA, Assistant Director of Pharmacy Services at MVH Pharmacy, says the key to medication management for caregivers is to be: informed, engaged and organized.

“Being actively engaged, understanding what they take and why they take it, makes for the most successful situation and makes it easier,” Dr. Thurlow advises. You will feel more confident in being responsible for your parent’s prescriptions when having a comprehensive understanding of their medications.

Use these five tips recommended by Dr. Thurlow for helping to manage your parent’s medication.

5 Tips for Caregivers Managing Prescription Medications

  1. Create a medication list. Create a list of all medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbals, sleep and/or cold medicines, so you have a complete picture in front of you. Include both daily medications and those occasionally taken, along with vitamins and supplements. Ask your parent’s doctor or pharmacist for help developing the medication list if your parent is unable or you’re unsure if your parent has the correct information.
  2. Ask “why.” Understand what each medication is for and ask why your parent is taking it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the doctor and pharmacist. Dr. Thurlow says it’s not unusual to find that some older patients are taking a medication, especially an OTC medicine, simply because they have always taken in. They may no longer need it, or it may be a duplication of another drug they are taking. Review the list with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure all medications are needed and helping them in their current medical state.


  1. Stay organized. Creating the medication list is the first step to getting organized. It can be time-consuming initially but will make you more informed and confident as a caregiver. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of all medications, start and stop dates, why they are taking it, dosages, how to take it and special notes from your pharmacist and/or doctor. Next, develop a management system that works for you, your parent and anyone else helping with caretaking. Some recommended medication organization tips include using a daily pill organizer, setting an alarm or creating a daily checklist to mark as each medication is taken. Find what works best for your situation.


  1. Use one pharmacy. Remember that your parent’s pharmacist can play an important role in helping you manage your parent’s medication. He or she is there to answer any of your questions and provide insight into specific side effects, what foods to avoid with certain medications, what if your parent misses a dose, etc. A single source pharmacy will also have records of current and past medications and can help you in creating a complete medication list for your parent. Find a pharmacist you trust and work with him or her as you do with your parent’s doctor.


  1. Review the list. Continually review and update your parent’s medication list. Note when medications were stopped and new medications started. Continue to ask the what, how and why on each medication your parent takes, whether prescription or over the counter. It’s always best to be proactive when caring for your parent. If your parent is hospitalized again or begins taking a new medication, it will be much easier to ask questions and manage medication. You will already be informed, engaged and organized.

The Most Common Medication Mistake Amongst Seniors

Dr. Thurlow says the most common medication concern he sees in older adults is they don’t know “why” they are taking a specific medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter. This can lead to taking unnecessary or duplicate drugs and safety concerns. By creating a list of all medications with the purpose of each, you can safely and effectively manage your parent’s medication.

Maine Veterans’ Homes MVH Pharmacies NavigatoRx Program

At Maine Veterans’ Homes, our mediation care transitions program provides the resources patients and their caregivers need to transition smoothly from hospitalization to skilled nursing and rehab care to home.

We incorporated the Navigator RX™ transition program into our to help offset unnecessary readmissions. In fact, did you know that around the nation, 19 percent of Medicare discharges result in a medical adverse event? And of that amount, 63 percent are related to medication mismanagement?!?

At Maine Veterans’ Homes, this fairly new program is already seeing great success. “Thus far, MVH Pharmacies Navigator RX™ has shown a 23 percent decrease of hospital readmissions amongst the 355 patients who have gone through the program,” Dr. Thurlow says.

The Steps of the Navigator RX™ program at Maine Veterans’ Homes:

  • Step 1: A complete review of all medications for things such as duplication, appropriate dosage.
  • Step 2: A complete review of all medications from discharge hospital orders to nursing orders to what the pharmacy has sent to ensure all medications match up appropriately.
  • Step 3: One-on-one counseling with patients and/or caregivers reviewing medications, focusing on new meds and high risk meds.
  • Step 4: A follow-up call 24-48 hours after discharge, again reviewing medications and making sure the patient is still comfortable and has no further questions.


Maine Veterans’ Homes is an independent nonprofit organization with six locations throughout Maine, each welcoming our honored veterans. Whether your loved one is in need of rehabilitative care, therapy services, long-term care or dementia care, we work with you to provide the exceptional care, compassion and support you are looking for.

We encourage families and veterans to visit any or all of our locations and get to know us. Contact Maine Veterans’ Homes online or call us at 800-278-9494.