Carers and medicines safety
Managing medicines is important, both for yourself or someone that you are caring for. As a carer you are part of the health care team, and it is essential to work with the team to ensure that you understand, and are included in, discussions about medicines of the person you care for.
Managing medicines for someone can be a challenge, particularly if they are taking several different types. Medicines can:
- Be in different forms including tablets, liquids, injectables, creams, patches, and inhalers
- Require a prescription or be available ‘over the counter’
- Include complimentary medicines such as vitamins and herbal supplements
- Be given to you when you leave a hospital or other care setting
- Need to be stored in certain ways such as the fridge or out of direct sunlight
- Have issues with being taken with other medicines (interactions)
Your support for medicines safety may include:
- Talking with the doctor (prescriber) and/or pharmacist (dispenser)
- Collecting medicines and supplies from pharmacy and managing/monitoring repeat prescriptions
- Relaying and/or reinforcing information from a doctor and/or pharmacist about medicines
- Keeping a medicines list up-to-date (medicines reconciliation)
- Help with taking medicines – different types, different days or times of day
- Storage and safety, including disposal when the medicine is no longer needed
- Watching for side effects or adverse events, and
- Watching for when the medicine may not be working as well, for example, breakthrough pain.
Where can I get help?
There are many options available to you as a carer to be more involved and aware of medicines related issues with the person you are caring for.
Talk to your doctor about arranging a Home Medicine Review (HMR) or Residential Medication Management Review.
Talk to your pharmacist about having an in-pharmacy MedsCheck or Dose Administration Aid
Have a look at the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet that came with the medicine – often inside the medicine box or packaging. This contains information on the safe and effective use of a prescription medicine. You can also ask a pharmacist to print a CMI for you, or search for them here.
NPS MedicineWise is an independent not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve health through safe and wise use of medicines and other health technologies. There are many resources on their website including but not limited to:
- The Medicine Finder to learn more about many types of medicines
- Resources for people with dementia and their carers
- Medicines and side effects
- Keeping your medicines costs down
- Finding food information about medicines
To get immediate support you can call:
- the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (1300 Medicine) for information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines.
- Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237 to report and discuss adverse experiences with medicines
- Poisons Information Centre on 131 126 if you think someone has taken an overdose, made an error with medicine or been poisoned
More information available from:
- Choosing Wisely Australia – A national conversation about reducing unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures
- Australian Government Department of Health – National Strategy for Quality Use of Medicines (Plain English Edition) and National Medicines Policy
- Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
- Therapeutic Goods Administration
- Return of Unwanted Medicines Program
- Find a Pharmacy