Nearly all caregivers assist with giving medications in some format when they provide care to a family member. On the surface, giving medications seems simple, but if performed incorrectly, patients can die of an overdose or from being undermedicated. Not only can giving the wrong amount be a problem, but giving it the wrong way can be, too. If you open a capsule that contains an “extended-release” medication and empty it onto your family member’s food, you allow the medication to begin work immediately rather than over the extended time frame intended by the manufacturer. As a result, the patient could have greater side effects, or the medication might not work. Therefore, it is essential to understand all essential details about the medication:
- Know what you are giving.
- Why are you giving it?
- How much do you should?
- What time to give it?
- How to give it.
- And any precautions associated with taking the drug, such as “it may cause the urine to turn red.”
Furthermore, certain medications can cause tissue damage if not given to the correct type of body tissue (muscle vs. subcutaneous). If you must give one of those, you must know where to give it and what to do if you make a mistake. Giving drugs like insulin and heparin that act quickly requires careful technique and complete accuracy because small mistakes in dosing can have serious consequences. Therefore, caregivers must be alert and pay attention when administering medications.
Medication Administration provides information on how to give medications in various ways – not just by mouth or injection. You’ll be surprised how many ways there are. I’ve tried to find a video or written example of each administration technique for your review. With the push to do health care at home, I expect all these techniques are currently being performed somewhere in the United States in the home environment.
As a caregiver, knowing the steps to perform and any risks associated with what you are doing is important. In addition, it’s a good idea to know what could happen if you do it wrong and how to reduce the harm if it does.
Pharmacies always give out information sheets when you pick up your medications, but often, they go into the trash when you go home. Some medications like insulin or heparin deserve more education time. That’s what I include here, and I provide a link to a resource to find information about most of your other prescriptions.