Community Blog

Brown Bag Check-ups for Seniors Encouraged During National Let’s Talk Medications Month

By Debbie Humphrey

Being a non-medical in-home healthcare agency, our caregivers offer gentle reminders when it’s time for seniors in their care to take their meds. Nearly all of the seniors we care for take prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies and even CBD’s, nowadays, for any number of maladies and conditions. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find many who take upwards of ten or more drugs every day.

You don’t have to watch television for very long before you undoubtedly see a pharmaceutical commercial touting the newest chemical compound developed to cure everything from acne to yeast infections. These medications all come with a host of side effects big pharma must disclose during advertisements. Often times, the side effects are listed in the very fine print at the bottom of the screen, or mentioned matter-of-factly in simple statements within the narration of the commercial itself.

All drugs have side effects. That’s a given. Problems can arise, though, when different medications interact with each other in the body. As every body is different on the outside, each body is different on the inside, especially when considering how each individual body metabolizes drugs.

Fortunately, most people see the same doctor regularly, and more often than not, they use the same pharmacy, too. This is good, because pharmacists use technology to maintain patient profiles and keep track of what medications have been prescribed for specific conditions. Challenges can arise, however, when a senior takes medications they no longer need, or they take OTC drugs and supplements that are not intended to be used with certain prescriptions.

Furthermore, CBD’s are sold in practically every store these days, yet because they are so new, few studies have been done to examine positive effects on health conditions, or possible side effects with its use in conjunction with prescription meds. In as much as a doctor may not have definitive knowledge about CBD use, it is important they understand what you are taking exactly, how often, and what positive or negative effects it may be having on your body.

Moreover, healthcare providers always ask patients to bring a complete list of EVERY drug or supplement they consume on a regular basis, so they can verify there is no danger of negative interactions before something new is prescribed.

It’s important to bring a bag of all medications to show your healthcare providers, specialists, and/or pharmacists in what is known as a Brown Bag Check-up for seniors.

Brown Bag Check-ups are a crucial safety measure for seniors to ensure the medications they are taking are appropriate for their current health conditions and will not negatively interact with other OTC’s, prescription meds, and supplements.

For a complete Brown Bag Check-up, gather all the medications (prescription and OTC’s), vitamins, supplements, CBD’s, and anything additional being consumed on a daily (or regular) basis, and take it with you to the doctor or pharmacist. They will cross-match what is in the patient’s current medical and pharmacy profiles to determine if there are duplications in therapeutic applications and make sure none will negatively interact with another, or potentially manifest other side effects. If there are potential issues with what is being taken, those issues can be addressed quickly and safely.

Dr. Marie Savard, a board-certified physician of Internal Medicine, author, former ABC News Medical Contributor and founder of the Savard System for managing and controlling your healthcare, recommends asking five questions before your brown bag medication check-up:

  1. Who is the best physician to speak to about your medications? Since medications may be prescribed by different doctors for different conditions, your primary care provider, or primary physician should be the one to review what you are taking and if it is still necessary. However, if your senior loved one sees a specialist most frequently, that person would be best-suited to examine your med cocktail.
  2. Is your list complete with EVERYTHING you consume daily, including all meds, OTC’s, supplements, vitamins, ointments, herbal remedies, including CBD’s? It’s important that nothing is excluded from the check-up.
  3. Are the medications being taken as recommended, regularly, or are doses missed? It is critical for your doctor and/or pharmacist to know the truth about your medication-taking habits. Missed doses can cause real problems internally! You might be surprised to learn what Dr Marie said, “It is estimated that people fail to take their medications for chronic conditions up to 50-70% of the time. No surprise, the more medications a person is prescribed, the less likely they are to take them all.”
  4. What are your healthcare priorities? Or what’s most important to you? Dr. Marie said, “Record “what matters” on a separate sheet of paper titled “What Matters to Me”and keep this document with your…medical records at home. Share this document with all physicians/practitioners, too, so they can include this important information in their records, too.”
  5. Have you prepared an agenda and lined-up someone to attend the brown bag check-up with you? “Studies have shown that patients with chronic conditions often forget up to half of what a doctor says immediately after the visit. It is much better to be present for the visit, even if only by video or phone, rather than not at all,” says Dr. Marie.

I am fortunate to have exceptional, compassionate caregivers at Home Helpers. As previously stated, part of what they do when they are caring for others is to remind them when it’s time to take their medications. Sometimes, caregivers voice concern about the sheer numbers of medications a senior is taking and the side effects they witness. That’s why a Brown Bag Check-up is so important.

If you know a senior who regularly takes medications, OTC’s, vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies or CBD’s, I highly recommend the Brown Bag Check-up. If you know a senior who lives  alone and needs assistance with gathering their meds, or transportation to their doctor or pharmacist, give me a call. I'm happy to offer a FREE consultation to assess needs and match the perfect caregiver who is happy to help!

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018 & 2019. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539

Sources:

HealthyWomen.org

Ask Dr Marie, Treat What Matters