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Crucial Tips for Safe Medication Management

Medication-related issues can spell disaster, both for a patient and healthcare staff. For those dealing with mental health issues, safe and practical medication management practices are essential. 

It takes a village — that’s the old saying. When it comes to medication management, this adage rings true. Caregivers, doctors, pharmacists, and patients need to work as a team in order to create the best medication management methodology possible. This is true even for community-based supports or targeted case management services. Both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications play a role, which means everyone involved needs to responsibly manage the process for the best possible outcome. 

So, where do you start when thinking about medication management? Well, there are a few crucial tips we’ll be going over so that you can create a routine that works for you — and with you. 

Learn About Your Medications

A great place to start is by learning all that you can about your medications. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist and ask questions. You’ll likely receive information regarding your medication. Make sure that you’re reading this information, especially if you’re a parent who is creating a medication management plan for your child. Be mindful of the names of your medications, the dosage, potential side effects, and adverse reactions with other medications. 

Here are some helpful questions you can ask during the learning phase. 

  • How does this medication work? 
  • What are some common side effects? 
  • When will the medicine begin to take effect? 
  • What happens if a loved one or I miss a dose? 
  • Does the medication require food or water? 
  • What activities should be avoided while on this medication? 
  • Does alcohol have adverse effects with this medication? 
  • How long does this medication regimen last? 
  • What’s the refill procedure for this medication? 

While there are certainly additional questions you could ask, these offer a great springboard for any further discourse with your pharmacist or doctor regarding medication management. 

Invest in Hardware 

If you or a loved one is taking multiple medications, investing in a pillbox can be an extremely helpful tool. Many individuals scoff at the idea of a pillbox, but for medication management, it can often be the best possible solution. 

These boxes are clearly marked so that you know which medication you’ll need to take on certain days. For those suffering from depression or other mental health issues — a pillbox offers one less obstacle between you and your medication. It’s a worthy investment, especially if you’re juggling multiple medications. 

Stick With One Pharmacy 

If possible, try to use a single pharmacy. It’s simply another way to avoid any unforeseen challenges or problems that may arise regarding medication combinations. It can certainly be more convenient to stop by the nearest CVS or Walgreens, but it’s not always the best course of action. 

While many pharmacies utilize electronic records that have significantly cut down on the human-error side of things, it’s still possible that information gets lost or delayed during the transfer process. So, if you want to avoid potential problems, stick with one pharmacy for your medications. 

Follow Prescribing Instructions 

One of the most important aspects of safe medication management is to take medication as directed. This means taking the correct dosage at the prescribed times. Whether it’s psychotropic or heartburn medication, following the prescribed directions can avoid further complications. 

Some medications shouldn’t be mixed with others, which is why it’s important to ask those questions before ingesting. Furthermore, certain foods, drinks, or supplements may cause adverse reactions — so knowing all you can before creating a medication management plan is crucial. 

Relay Effects to Your Doctor or Psychiatrist

Everyone reacts differently to medication, so if you’re having issues or you’re not sure if the dosage is correct — speak up. Unless your doctor or psychiatrist has told you otherwise, never increase or decrease your dosage on your own. You should always consult with your prescribing professional regarding discontinuing or changing the dosage. This is medication management 101. 

Even if you’re using a telehealth provider or online mental health service — it’s important to relay information to your prescribing professional. 

Keep Medication in Its Original Bottle or Packaging 

This is another tip that can help individuals avoid mixing up medications. The original container or bottle has pertinent information on it, which can help with medication management and safe use. You may find:

  • Dosage information 
  • Prescribing instructions 
  • Expiration dates 

If a medication has expired, contact your prescribing professional for a refill if needed. Safely discard any expired medications safely to avoid a loved one accidentally taking it. 

Also, store your medication properly. Some medications will have instructions regarding certain environments and conditions such as a dry, cool area — while others may need to be refrigerated. Keeping medications in the bathroom is typically discouraged as the constant changes in temperature and moisture from showers can impact medications. 

Create a Clear-Cut Medication Regimen

Routines are your best friend when it comes to medication management. Taking your meds at a specific time and in the same way can greatly improve its effectiveness. 

For example, your routine could include eating breakfast and immediately taking your medication after you’ve finished. Or, perhaps you shower every night before bed, and taking your medication with a glass of water right before getting in can be a part of your daily routine. Whatever your routine is, stick to it. After a while, it will become second nature. 

If you need to — set reminders as a way to get in the groove. Smartphones can be a great tool, as you can set reminders or alarms every day at the same time to prompt your medication routine. If you’re not a smartphone kind of person, alarm clocks can also be a great reminder. Whatever you need to do in order to get into a healthy and simple routine can play a significant role in effective medication management. 

There You Have It 

There are so many ways to create or improve your medication management. For those who are just starting out on medication, it’s crucial that you get to know your medication and establish a routine in order to get the most out of your prescriptions. 

It’s also a great idea to establish some sort of “emergency plan.” If, for whatever reason, adverse side effects occur, your supply is running low, or any other emergency situation arises — a plan or course of action can limit the potential dangers. Having a list of poison control, 24-hour pharmacies, and local emergency care providers handy is a great idea. 

A Psychologist’s Notes from Quarantine

by Mental Health Blogger David Susman

It seems like day three hundred of the pandemic quarantine. But objectively I know it’s only been about five weeks.

Observations:

Bouncing back and forth seemingly randomly from calm, rational, semi-productive detachment to worry, uncertainty, tears and sadness. The latter is definitely not the usual me.

Spending countless hours at the computer, but grateful for a job that allows me to work remotely. Also grateful for a specific task to be absorbed in: to transition our bricks-and-mortar psychology training clinic to telehealth, allowing our psychology graduate students to continue to provide much-needed psychotherapy services remotely.

Quickly realizing I had not the first clue about how to accomplish said task (above). So off I went to hours and hours of webinar training, reading articles, and accumulating resources from colleagues through emails and listserves. Four weeks later and our telehealth clinic is ready to launch.

Speaking of emails and listserves, Never Have I Ever read so many emails as in the past several weeks! Drinking from a firehose may be the best analogy. Separating the wheat from the chaff is another challenging part of this task. What’s useful and what’s useless?

Despite the love/hate relationship with emails, I’ve come to recognize that technology can be my new best friend, as it allows for social interaction, both verbally and visually, with friends, students and colleagues. My online work calendar is almost as full as usual with meetings, but now each of them is tagged with a Zoom link. Keeping the links straight has also proven more difficult than expected. But I haven’t Zoomed into the wrong meeting yet.

How to handle all the news and media? Mostly by turning it off. Carefully selecting a very few reliable outlets and then limiting my exposure to around 30 minutes total a day.

Understanding that grief and loss are part of my daily emotional diet. Plus a little anger from time to time, when I read about some of the careless and stupid things going on.

But there’s cause for inspiration as well. Maybe it’s just my rationalization, but once I decided this is really all about saving lives (including perhaps my own and my family), I can deal with it. I calculated a weird worst-case scenario in my head. If every single person in the US were infected, about 10 million people would die. Any number less than that is a victory. If we come in under 100,000, while that’s seismically tragic, it’s also a HUGE victory. Our daily actions are saving countless lives.

Not to be political, but I’ve also been inspired by Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky. Every single day at 5:00 pm, he holds a press conference and reassures us that we will get through this together. He shows examples of positive social media and chokes up when announcing the daily death toll. He has been a steady example of compassionate and effective leadership. I’m grateful for that.

The psychologist in me (since I am a psychologist, I do think there is actually one in me) is also fascinated by the largest behavioral experiment in the history of mankind. If the global sacrifices being made don’t convince you of the inherent goodness of humanity, I don’t know what will. That’s gotta be something good to take away from all of this.

Through it all, it’s been fascinating to see how life manages to go on. Babies are still being born, couples are still getting engaged, kids are still having birthdays, and I’m still eating chocolate chip cookies (more than ever).

I’ve also seen how death unrelated to the virus still occurs. One of my best friends and fraternity brothers from college just died suddenly of heart failure stemming from other medical issues. Hit me like a ton of bricks. But my brothers and I rallied, and we had a video call with 50 guys paying respect to our friend. We then compiled a virtual memory board of stories, tributes and photos of our friend which we sent to his wife and kids.

Then there’s all the fallout. All the deaths, the jobs lost, all the proms and graduations that won’t happen, all the sporting events cancelled. And the uncertainty. Will things get worse? When will they get better? Can the economy recover and how long will it take? For now, we just have to accept that we don’t yet know.

I’ve also thought about opportunities and silver linings. Telehealth can open up health care (and mental health care) to people and places that have previously been hard to reach. We can see that we are capable of change, we can learn to be flexible, and we can support and help each other in the spirit of human kindness.

I think this experience also shows us how resilient we are. We can bounce back. It may take a long time. Things will definitely be different. But one day soon we will again shake hands, hug, dance, and come together. The vision of that day will keep me going for now.

Here’s a question: What thoughts and feelings are you having during this difficult time? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Finally, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend.

Start the Day Off Right: 5 Things to Try When You Wake Up for a Better Day

Sometimes, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and it can derail our entire day. However, if there’s a wrong side, there must also be the right side.

Mornings are important. We’ve all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies have shown that breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and sets the rhythm for the rest of your day. Well, if we can feed our physical body for the better, we can also feed our minds for the better. 

The beginning of your day can be a daunting time, and we understand that those dealing with the negative symptoms of mental health may find this to be an especially troubling time of day. It can become cyclical, where every day, you’re looking forward to the next with less and less enthusiasm. Well, there’s no better way to break a cycle than by changing the wheel. 

We know that doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t reap new results, and the same can be said for waking up on the wrong side of the bed. So, here are 5 tips and tricks you can try to wake up for a better day. 

5 Tips for Waking Up Happier 

Prep Work 

Sometimes, the best way to start out on the right foot is to prepare for the time ahead. Many of us who despise mornings are night people and have an incredible amount of energy and life in the nighttime hours. Use this to your advantage. It’s during these hours that you may find picking out your clothes or setting up the coffee pot to be helpful for the morning. Take the time to gather your things, whether it be setting your keys and wallet next to your phone — or putting together your work belonging so that you’re ready to hit the morning in stride. 

Getting Enough Sleep 

Sleep is such an important part of mental health. Sleep issues can be both a symptom and a consequence of problems you may be dealing with. It can be a daunting issue to overcome, but it can make a world of difference when it comes to how you wake up in the morning. If you’re dealing with sleep problems, it’s never too late to do something about it. There are natural remedies such as melatonin, which need to be taken carefully in order to keep your body’s sleep clock aligned. A productive exercise routine has also illustrated improved sleeping conditions. There are even prescriptions that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist. Seeking help, either through counseling or psychiatry services, can help individuals that are dealing with chronic sleep problems. 

The Right Alarm Clock 

This may be a surprising one, but the type of alarm clock you wake up to can have a significant impact on the start of your day. If your alarm clock jolts you up in the morning, it may be setting the tone for an anxious or alarming day. Now, everyone is different, so finding an alarm clock that works for you isn’t necessarily something we can recommend. However, it’s safe to say that some alarm noises that are pre-programmed into your phone or alarm clock are not doing your morning any favors. There are special alarm clocks that wake you up with light, which can be a great alternative to the buzzing sounds of classic alarm clocks. It can also be helpful to use a designated alarm clock instead of your phone. This can break the cycle of checking notifications or ending up down a social media rabbit hole to start your day. 

Affirmations 

It may seem silly, but daily affirmations right when you wake up can help set the tone. These can be done either before bed or right when you wake up. If you have a bedtime routine (which can help by the way), perhaps repeating what you are thankful for or positive parts of your day can be a positive push toward starting your morning off right. If you’re doing these at night, perhaps some calming music, white noise, or sleep podcasts can be a great way to wind down for the night. However, doing these affirmations right when you wake up can be a productive experience as well. Envisioning a positive and productive day, or “speaking it into existence” can be a reaffirming gesture to yourself.  

Start With the Things You Love 

Sometimes, the worst part about waking up is that it inevitably leads to your long day at work. If that’s the case, it may be beneficial to begin your day earlier and start with something you love to jumpstart the positive feelings. If you like working out, start your day with some morning exercise. If you have a hobby, carve out an hour or so at the beginning of your day to work on what you love. Perhaps it’s yoga, shooting some hoops, cross-stitching, woodcarving — you name it. If you find pleasure in it, start your day with it! Even the morning coffee you love and live off of can be something you look forward to. Yes, we know it means waking up even earlier — but it will give you something to get excited about when the sun creeps through your curtains. 

Start Your Day the Right Way 

Starting your day off on the right side of the bed really comes down to you. If you find something that doesn’t work, scrap it and try something else. It’s a process, we understand — but an important one if you want to wake up to a better day. 

  • Prepare for your day the night before 
  • Get a healthy sleep routine 
  • Use the right alarm clock
  • Say some daily affirmations
  • Start your day with what you love to do

While these aren’t the only five ways you can start your day off on a better foot, they are some great places to start. It’s really a matter of testing out new ways to start your day off right, and sticking with it. There’s no one size fits all solution for a better day — everyone has their own puzzle to complete. Counseling services can also help a variety of individuals explore various methods for a positive start to the day. Whether it’s through in-person counseling, group counseling, or even online counseling services — there are plenty of options out there that can help.