Saturday, March 29, 2014

Caregivers Managing Home Medications (Research)

Back in the 90’s when I was a hospice volunteer and didn’t know it, I began helping a gay man who had AIDS. I didn’t know him well, but he had little family support. At that time, people with AIDS all over the country were dying quickly. I remember that a nurse taught him a system using pennies to help him keep track of the many medications he had to take around the clock. With great determination, he relied on that system  because he lived alone and knew his life depended on it.

Today, many patients still need more concrete ways to manage their medications at home safely. Not knowing how to do this may be what stands between patients’ tranquility and end-of-life pain and distress. When low-literacy patients leave a healthcare facility with only text directions, they may misinterpret or be confused by homecare directions they were given. Visual aides such as pictographs can be literal lifesavers for them. Aides have proven to be very effective, especially in explaining directions in sequence requiring multiple actions. Even those with high level reading skills may get confused about text-only directions.

In a study assessing family caregivers in managing medications for home hospice patients, survey responses from 98 hospice providers who were mostly nurses reported 68% rated ensuring proper medication management as most important in hospice care delivery. But 33% reported frequent encounters of caregivers with problems managing medications.

To help caregivers manage medications, three approaches emerged:

      1) Teaching them more about the medication to increase knowledge   
      2)  Simplifying the management process
      3) Counseling to overcome attitudinal barriers.

As many as 47% of these hospice providers stated they would benefit greatly from additional resources to help caregivers.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. You have a huge point here Frances. Text-only directions are more likely to cause confusions than actual instructions with visual aides. I can say that I have a high level reading skills yet still confused on some written medications.

    I am looking forward to read your book Frances.

  2. Emily,

    I feel the same way. Apparently, managing medications is a big problem, and additional resources should be provided.

    Thanks for buying my book. It's available online and offline at many booksellers in America and other countries. You can read more about it at my website:

    Happy endings,