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

Author: Maine Veterans' Homes
Posted: April 11, 2021
Category: Short Term Skilled Nursing Care

It can be stressful, overwhelming, and time-consuming to manage medication for your parent, especially if they are 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.

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Follow These Tips

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

  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 take medication, especially an over-the-counter medicine, simply because they have always taken it. They may no longer need it, or it may duplicate another drug they are taking. Review the list with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure all medications are needed and help them in their current medical state.

  3. 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 them, 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 care. 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.

  4. 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 happens if your parent misses a dose, etc. A single source pharmacy will also have records of current and past medications and help you create 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.

  5. 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 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. You will already be informed, engaged, and organized.


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.

Oftentimes, residents will be put on medication while in a hospital, that is meant to be short term. It then becomes part of their medication list going forward, even though they may not need or know what the medication is for. At MVH, however, there are pharmacists who review medications on a regular basis. For older folks not living in a healthcare setting, this is not the case.

“For example, even when I go to the doctor’s office now, they have a record of medications, such as Albuterol that I used five years ago,” Dr. Thurlow said. “I don’t currently need it, but it still comes up as a medication. IF I did not know what it was for, I could be prescribed the medication and use it unnecessarily, increasing the likelihood of side effects, interactions etc.”

“Medications when taken for appropriate use and monitored correlate better health outcomes,” he added. “compliance is a critical part of this equation.”

Dr. Thurlow said the highest correlation to compliance was around education - patients who understand why they are on a certain medication and what to expect are much more likely to remain compliant with medication. 

“Pharmacists can play a large role in educating patients and residents with this information,” he said.  

Similarly, good compliance is associated with awareness of disease and side effects.  

Also of note is that as age increases, compliance with medication decreases. This further highlights the crucial need for family support, education, organization, and living in a setting that has experts prepared to handle these details.

Learn more >>> 

The 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 to help offset unnecessary readmissions. In fact, did you know that around the nation, 19 percent of Medicare discharges result in an adverse medical event? And of that amount, 63 percent are related to medication mismanagement?

At Maine Veterans’ Homes, this program has seen tremendous 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 and 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 medications.
  • 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.

About Maine Veterans Homes

The Maine Veterans’ Homes Pharmacy is associated with the six MVH locations throughout the state. To learn more about becoming a resident at one of our Homes in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough, or South Paris, download our free Eligibility Guide >>>

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