Thursday, 12 April 2018

THE PHARMACIST: A CAREGIVER'S SECRET, BEST FRIEND

This blog post was featured in the SeniorCare.com Aging Industry Insider.

One of any caregiver's BEST and most SECRET friends is the community pharmacist. Why secret? Because most caregivers aren't aware of all the help that pharmacists can provide. Why best? Let me tell you this story of our pharmacist. 

Our son Nicholas was often ill and in pain. We struggled at home to keep him out of hospital. In those days, our community pharmacy was run by the Silver family - Ron and Janis. I was a regular customer and because the Silvers were our neighbours, they knew the struggles we faced caring for Nick. One Christmas Eve, Janis arrived with our medication order plus cookies she'd baked - she was wearing a Santa hat! (The Silvers are Jewish 😁) Another day, Ron called to ask how Nicholas was doing with his pain. I answered, "Not so great. Some days are better than others." Ron suggested that I try adhesive magnets on Nick painful hip - no charge. "If they don't work, just return them", he said. "If they do, they are my gift." I know that our experience with the Silver family is extraordinary, but I did learn that the pharmacist is a powerful ally for all caregivers. So recently, I came across THIS ARTICLE and decided it was time to sing the praises of community pharmacists everywhere. Here's a list from that link of all the different ways they can help. 

Administering medication
For patients, administering the proper medication at the right time and correctly is an important part of achieving desirable health outcomes. Independent pharmacists can have a positive impact by educating both patients and caregivers on the proper way to take medications.

For example, let’s say someone under a family member’s care is supposed to take a medication three times a day. Does that mean the medication should be taken every eight hours? Or should it be taken with meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner? The community pharmacist can explain the appropriate time to take each medication and explain potentially dangerous or adverse interactions — such as different fruit juices that might increase bioavailability or decrease absorption of certain drugs.

Pharmacists can also educate caregivers on administering drugs via syringes, the correct way to measure liquid medications and how to use glucose meters or properly take blood samples. All of this is part of the pharmacist’s duty to thoroughly explain and demonstrate to increase the caregiver’s confidence. 

Stopping potentially dangerous interactions
When patients are taking multiple medications, it can be a challenge for caregivers to keep track of which medication should be taken at what time, while also looking out for potentially dangerous drug interactions. Independent pharmacists should encourage caregivers to come to the pharmacy on designated “brown-bag days.” On such days, caregivers can collect all of the medications currently being taken by the patient under their care — both prescription and OTC —and bring them to the pharmacist for review.

Caregivers may not be aware that OTC medicines can have serious interactions or contraindications with prescription drugs. There’s also the possibility that caregivers use one pharmacy that’s more convenient for him or her, while the patient uses another. Prescriptions could also be filled through mail-order pharmacies. All of this means that it’s impossible for the pharmacist to have a complete picture of all the medications the patient is currently taking. The pharmacist can use the brown-bag day as an opportunity to encourage the caregiver to consolidate all the patient’s prescriptions at a single pharmacy, which will allow the pharmacist to monitor for compliance and potentially dangerous drug interactions more easily. 

How to ease a caregiver’s burden
Between work, family and caregiving, caregivers’ stresses and burdens can seem overwhelming, which is why it’s the duty of a community pharmacy to assist them in their role. 

Pharmacists are an integral part of a caregiver’s support network, and it’s important that caregivers are aware that a community pharmacy can be their greatest resource, where they go for reassurance, to ask questions and to gain insights.
Accessibility
A community pharmacy is the most accessible healthcare provider, on the front lines assisting caregivers with all their questions and concerns. As doctors require appointments and the internet is full of jargon, a community pharmacy could be the only place he or she can turn. This makes it imperative that independent pharmacists let caregivers know they are committed to offering convenient, accessible care. 

Given the busy schedules many caregivers have, which often includes full-time jobs and/or caring for their own children, a community pharmacy’s hours of operation might not be convenient. And if a caregiver has a late-night drug-related emergency, he or she will need to contact a pharmacist. To address this issue, community pharmacies can post an emergency after-hours phone number on their website and entrance that caregivers can call on nights or weekends if an urgent matter arises. 

Delivery services 
One simple way to create convenience and ease caregivers’ burden is by offering free home delivery services. A delivery option can make all the difference in providing caregivers with the resources they need to make sure patients stay compliant and adherent to their prescriptions. It’s this type of above-and-beyond service that makes community pharmacies such valued institutions in their communities.

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