Tips for caregivers managing medication

: A young woman and her mother look over a list of her mother’s medications together.

When it comes to taking care of family members or loved ones, caregivers have a lot to juggle. One of the most important — and often time-consuming — of those tasks is managing medication.

More than 1 in 5 Americans are caregivers, and 19% of them provide care for free.1 Of those providing unpaid care, 78% say they manage medications, and a majority of them identify medication management as a major challenge.2

Medication management becomes especially difficult for caregivers if a person is taking more than one medication because there is more to track and there’s a higher risk of experiencing medication-related problems. From managing interactions to preventing mix-ups to staying on track with doses, caregivers play a key role in identifying and preventing problems from happening.

If you are a caregiver managing medications, here are some tips to help make your job easier and prevent burnout.

Get informed

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to caregiving. The more information you can find out about your care recipient’s condition and medications, the more effective you can be at preventing medication-related problems.

Here are some questions to ask your care recipient’s healthcare provider that can help you with medication management.

  1. What does this medication do and how does it support their treatment plan?
  2. What are the potential side effects?
  3. Should this medication be taken with food or are there other special instructions I should know?
  4. Will this medication possibly interact with other medications, vitamins, or supplements they’re taking?
  5. What are signs that the medication dose is too high or too low?
  6. What are red flags or signs and symptoms of a medication-related problem?
  7. Is this medication still needed?

Stay organized

It’s easier to manage medication, particularly multiple medications, if you have a system in place to keep track of everything your care recipient is taking.

  • Create a list of all of the medications they’re taking, including vitamins and supplements, along with the medication name, strength, prescriber, dosage, medication purpose, and any special instructions. Make sure it’s somewhere that’s easy to access, like on your phone, in case of an emergency.
  • Keep all medication in a safe place and in the original bottle or package.
  • Use a pill organizer each week to make sure you have the medications ready for the day and to help stay on track.

Plan ahead

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s important for caregivers to keep up to date on medication refills so that your care recipient doesn’t run out of medication.

An easy way to do this is to keep a document with each medication’s expiration date and the number of refills remaining. You can also ask your care recipient’s doctor if they can provide a 90-day supply of the medication so that you aren’t having to refill medications each month.

With Express Scripts® Pharmacy, you can also set up automatic refills on qualifying long-term medications and have the medication shipped to the location of your choosing, saving you trips to the pharmacy.

Our website and app make managing prescriptions for caregivers even easier. Your care recipient can add you as a caregiver under their account. As a designated caregiver, you can:

  • Order medications and refills for patients.
  • Check order status.
  • Manage shipping and payment options.

Work with your pharmacist

Nearly two-thirds of caregivers expressed frustration over refilling prescriptions, administering medication, making clinical judgements about medication, and communicating with care recipients and healthcare providers about medications.2

Pharmacists can help alleviate some of these stressors and make the caregiving process easier. Here are some of the ways they can help:

  • If you or your care recipient have trouble remembering when to take medication, your pharmacist can provide special pill boxes, timer caps, and other aids to help remind you.
  • If your medication needs to be split, your pharmacist can show you how to do this.
  • If your care recipient has difficulty swallowing their medication, your pharmacist can recommend alternative dosage forms, if available, such as a liquid medication or a patch.

At Express Scripts® Pharmacy, our pharmacists are available by phone 24/7 to provide medication counseling and to help you with all of your medication-related questions.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too!

Being a caregiver can be rewarding, but it can also be time-consuming and stressful. If you are experiencing caregiver burnout, here are a few simple ways to take care of your own emotional and physical well-being.

The Family Caregiver Alliance also provides free resources for caregivers on topics such as legal and financial planning, driving and travel, and advanced illness and end of life. They can also connect you to organizations and support groups that provide resources for caregivers in your area.

1 AARP Public Policy Institute: Caregiving in the United States 2020 (May 14, 2020):
2 Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy: Medication management activities performed by informal caregivers of older adults (May 2018):

Posted date: November 28, 2023

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