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How to Administer Medicine: A 5-Step Family Caregiver’s Guide to Medication

As a caregiver, you play a critical role in your loved one(s)’ well-being, and that is never more literal than when it comes to performing medical tasks. Tasks like administering medication are a part of the job that almost no one has training for. As such, these responsibilities can be daunting, but they are essential for ensuring your loved one's health and comfort. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to administer medication as a caregiver with confidence.

Note: This article is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice or a substitute for medical advice given by your medical professional. Future articles will address additional medical tasks, so be sure to subscribe and request the task you want to see next.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Administering Medication: A 5-Step Guide

Administering medication can seem like a complex task, especially as time goes on and the prescriptions pile up. But thankfully, there are a lot of techniques and tools that can help you along the way. Here are the steps you can take to ensure your loved one receives their prescribed treatments safely and effectively.

Step 1: Understand Medication Instructions

The first step is to read and understand the instructions provided with the medication you’re administering. To do that:

  • Read the medication label carefully.

  • Understand the dosage, frequency, and special instructions (for example, take on an empty stomach vs. with food).

  • Be aware of potential side effects or adverse reactions.

Step 2: Organize Medications

Next, put all medications into a system that makes sense to you and your loved one(s). You can use a smart pillbox, traditional pillbox, phone alarms and reminders, etc. to help you keep track. We recommend you:

  • Use a pill organizer or medication management system to prevent errors.

  • Keep a detailed medication log to track doses.

Step 3: Administer Medication Safely

When administering medication, it’s important to ensure both of you are set up for success.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling medication.

  • Ensure your loved one is in a comfortable position.

  • Administer medication as instructed (for example, with water, crushed, or whole).

Step 4: Monitor for any signs of allergic reactions or adverse effects

This is especially important when bringing a new medication into the mix. In the event of an emergency, be prepared to go to a hospital and/or call 9-1-1.

Step 5: Communication

Over time, you’ll get more comfortable with medication management. To ensure the safety and efficacy of the treatment plan over time, make sure to:

  • Maintain open communication with healthcare providers.

  • Inform the doctor of any missed doses or concerns about medication.

It’s important to know that you can request a medical evaluation from your loved one(s)’ medical team if you’re ever worried about things like:

  • Side effects

  • Mixing medications and how each may impact your loved one

  • How many meds your loved one is taking (whether you think they have too many or could use a new prescription)

  • Or if a medication no longer seems to be working

Types of Medication Management Devices

There are a lot of tools out there designed to help you administer and manage medication effectively. These include devices like:

  • Locking Medication Storage. These secure storage containers come with locks to ensure that medications are stored safely, (i.e., preventing unauthorized access to your loved one or other people in the home).

  • Medication Alarm Watches. These wristwatches come with built-in alarms to remind you or your loved one of their pre-programmed medication schedules.

  • Pharmacy Prepacked AM/PM/Night Meds. If you didn’t know, you can request that your pharmacy pre-packs medications in separate pouches or blister packs labeled for morning, afternoon, and night doses, simplifying the medication administration process just a bit.

  • Smart Pill Bottles with GPS Tracking. Smart GPS-enabled pill bottles not only remind you to administer medications but also provide location-based alerts to ensure you don’t leave your medication behind when you could need it.

  • Medication Dispensing Stations. You can get an automated station that helps with the process – it can dispense medications for multiple users and is programmable for various dosing schedules.

If medication management is a struggle, it’s worth taking some time to figure out what aspect of the process gives you trouble. Is it related to the number of medications, dosing them, remembering their details (like taking it with food, crushing it into water, etc.), or just remembering to administer them in general? Once you figure out the point that gives you trouble, there’s a good chance there’s a device out there to help you. You can also talk to your loved one's care team or other caregivers for recommendations if needed.

Closing Thoughts

Remember that your role as a caregiver is not just about performing tasks. It's also about providing emotional support and maintaining a compassionate and respectful approach to care. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for training or guidance from healthcare professionals when needed.

As you continue your caregiving journey, know that you are not alone. The California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County is here to provide assistance and guidance. Together, we can navigate the healthcare landscape and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one(s).

Further Reading: Understanding the Difference: Medi-Cal vs. Medicare for Family Caregivers in Southern California

​​When navigating healthcare options, you may have realized that you aren’t sure what the difference is between Medi-Cal and Medicare. These two programs can provide valuable assistance, but knowing which one applies to your situation is incredibly important. So let's explore the nuances of Medi-Cal and Medicare, empowering you to make informed decisions in your caregiving journey. Dive in here.


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