Discussing the Importance of Medication Management During the Holidays

November 18, 2015

This is a guest post by Todd Wormingham, R.Ph, MBA

Todd is Sr. Clinical Product Manager, for the non-acute care division of Omnicell, working on the development and implementation of medication adherence solutions for the non-acute care space. Todd earned a B.S. in Pharmacy and a Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis in Health Services Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Thanksgiving is the one rare time a year when entire families come together and can focus on each other. It’s about so much more than just the turkey and stuffing: it’s when important decisions are hashed out and debated. The table is where real, meaningful discussions happen including serious conversations around a loved one’s health. While this may be uncomfortable, it’s particularly important, because in many cases their independence may be called into question.

One of the most essential factors in how successfully someone is managing their health is how well they take their medications. Medication issues cause 30%-50% of treatment failures and 125,000 deaths every year. So while it may not seem like a big deal to miss a pill at dinner, there are a multitude of long-term health implications that can occur by not taking medications as prescribed. Staying adherent to medications not only improves health outcomes, but also helps seniors stay independent. Aging at home is likely preferred by your family member and also leads to better physical and mental health.

Having a conversation around a loved one’s health isn’t always easy. It can feel out of place or as if you’re invading their space. But it’s a conversation that needs to occur to ensure confidence in your loved one’s ability to manage their health and live independently. In light of this, here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing to talk to your loved one about medication adherence.

Plan ahead:

Talk to your community pharmacist first about what solutions are available to help people adhere to their medication regimen. Make sure you have talking points ready beforehand. Going into a touchy topic like personal health isn’t easy, so you want to have an outline in your head of how to react when you might get pushback.

Be respectful and take tiny steps

This topic can be very sensitive, so don’t just barge into it abruptly. Instead, try and understand the conversation from both perspectives.

Try starting the conversation with something leading but not an accusation: “Hey, are you still taking those medications?” or “How are you feeling?  How are you doing with the *insert condition*?”

Let them understand that you are just asking these questions because you genuinely care about them. Tell them “It’s really important that we get to spend many more Thanksgivings together.”

Make sure you are saying reassuring things like, “oh, you look great, those medications must be really working”.  You may even want to frame the risk in personal terms that your loved one can understand: “I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but remember last time you forgot to take *insert medication(s)* and you started feeling really sick?”

Express support and offer solutions:

Always remember to come back to the reason for this conversation.  The main motivation is concern over your loved one, not because you think they’re helpless or want to dictate what they do. You share their motivation of staying healthy at home independently and medication management is central to achieving this goal.

Remember, you don’t have to have this conversation alone. Make sure your loved one knows that community pharmacists offer a variety of solutions to help people properly manage their medications. By offering tools like medication synchronization programs to get all of their monthly medications at the same time, easy-to-follow blister packaging, and medication therapy management consultations, community pharmacists provide a wealth of knowledge of how to improve medication adherence.

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